Each year, the Santa Clara Valley Water District helps to organize two major volunteer cleanup efforts in Santa Clara County: National River Cleanup Day and Coastal Cleanup Day.

And each year, plastic littering our waterways accounts for a sizeable portion of the trash our volunteers collect. Since 2014, plastic bags alone have made up between 19 and 28 percent of the trash we pull from creeks during those two cleanup days. In that time frame, the total amount of garbage volunteers collected was more than 84,000 pounds each year.

This is a problem because pollution in our waterways harms wildlife and degrades habitat and water quality.

This year, the focus of Earth Day is to end plastic pollution. According to the Earth Day Network, “multiple studies have found that 94 percent of our drinking water and 93 percent of sampled bottled water worldwide are full of plastic particles and chemicals…” As the organization that provides Silicon Valley with safe, clean water for a healthy life, environment and economy, the water district takes pollution and protecting our water supply seriously.

Our work includes enhancing, protecting and restoring the environment. Healthy streams are better for wildlife and our water. Caring for streams begins with all of us.

There are a few easy ways you can help cut down on plastic – and other – pollution in Santa Clara County waterways:

Don’t litter. Litter can find its way into our streams and out to the San Francisco or Monterey bays. Find a trash can or recycling receptacle. If your waste is organic, throw it in the compost.

Use a reusable water bottle. Use a glass or stainless steel water bottle, and you’ll save money as well as keep trash out of the environment.

Drink tap water. We take pride in providing safe, clean water to the people and businesses of Santa Clara County. We regularly test the water at our state-of-the-art laboratory and consistently meet or exceed all drinking water standards, which are getting increasingly stringent.

Refuse plastic bags. There is already a statewide ban on plastic bags in grocery stores. Take a few reusable bags with you into the store and help keep our waterways free from plastic.

Volunteer! National River Cleanup Day on Saturday, May 19 needs your help. Sign yourself and your friends up at cleanacreek.org and get pollution out of our waterways!

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