Do You Know Your Drinking Water?

Stand at your kitchen sink and fill up a glass of water from the tap. Can you guess where that water comes from? Or how far it traveled to get to your tap? What about how adequately -- or not -- the land at the source is protected?

You're not alone if you don't have the answers. A poll conducted by The Nature Conservancy found that 77 percent of Americans not on private well water don't know where their water comes from. To eliminate the guess work, the Conservancy created a one-stop-shop on your drinking water source. Check it out.


Go to the Source
On the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, this first-of-its kind interactive quiz, map and statewide water report connects the dots for Californians on their drinking water. Conservancy scientists developed a map of the watersheds, rivers, reservoirs and lakes that supply 80 percent of all Californian's surface drinking water. Start by testing your watershed drinking water knowledge, then type in your city to get a personalized web map. With one click, you can learn how far your water may have traveled and the level of land protection in your watershed, a bit unnerving for some parts of California.

Another click and you can see what's going on in the watersheds that supply your water. Does your water come from a national park? A wilderness area? A parking lot? Go one step further and you're zooming into your watershed getting a look at the individual trees that filter your water. Now that's up close and personal! Go to the quiz and maps:

By the Numbers--The Report Reveals:
  • Ninety-three percent of Californians rely on publicly-supplied water to meet their domestic water needs.
  • Nearly 157 million acres of land spanning eight states are used to collect, filter and deliver our surface drinking water. (We're not even looking at groundwater here. Stay tuned for that.)
  • Only 16 percent of this land is protected from damaging land uses like development, mining or clear-cutting.
  • Water for Southern Californians may have traveled up to 1,500 miles, starting in the Rocky Mountains.
  • Los Angeles pulls from the largest watershed at 146 million acres - that's 1.5 times the size of the state.
  • With 88 percent protected, San Francisco has one of the highest levels of land protection in their watershed.

Mind Your Ps and Qs -- Protection and Quality
The quality of our water is directly affected by the condition of the land in the surrounding watershed. Natural vegetation helps to filter water and slow down runoff so more water goes through the soil before it reaches the rivers and lakes. This natural process doesn't cost a cent and helps clean, protect and store our water. On the other hand, when natural vegetation is removed and replaced with roof tops, parking lots and roads, rain water floods quickly over these hard surfaces, decreasing water quality by picking up chemicals and pollutants along the way, and depositing them in the streams and rivers. This makes it more difficult and costly for water utilities to clean the water before it reaches your house, and less water is available at times.

Learn how the Conservancy works to protect natural vegetation in places like, the Sierra Nevadas where 65 percent of Californians get some portion of their water and the Ramona Grasslands, where San Diego's emergency water is sourced.

Go Hug Your Watershed
Have fun with your water. From fishing at Los Angeles County's Pyramid Lake, to hiking Mt. Hamilton just 30 minutes from downtown San Jose, the online drinking water maps include information on the many recreational opportunities at our watersheds.