Johnson column: The secret life of water

One way to protect the water supply is by using natural cleaning products. The city of Carlton will raffle off two natural cleaning kits in October.

Covered tanks and buildings at the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District facilities on the St. Louis River in Duluth. (File / News Tribune)

Water is all around us but how often do we think about it?

Where does your drinking water come from? A city supply, private well, bottles? Sometimes it feels like it magically appears, ready for use, and then it goes down the drain or toilet. Poof! All gone! Or is it?

I am going to reveal the secret life of water.

We all know the water cycle where water evaporates up to the clouds where it collects until it gets dense enough to rain (or snow if it is cold enough). It then falls back to earth to become groundwater again. When water seeps in from the surface and reaches the water table, it begins moving towards points where it can escape, such as wells, rivers or lakes.

Many homes in this area get their drinking water from either a private or public well. This is why it is important to prevent drinking water from becoming polluted by managing potential sources of contamination in the area that supplies water to a well.


Much can be done to prevent pollution, such as the wise use of land and chemicals. Public health is protected and the expense of treating polluted water or drilling new wells is avoided through wellhead protection efforts.

So, now where does it go after I flush?

Some of us have a septic system that consists of a tank and drain field. Wastewater enters the tank. The solids sink and begin to break down. The liquid drains from the tank to the drain field where the remaining impurities naturally decompose and the water returns as groundwater.

City residents are probably connected to the city sewer system. The wastewater collected in the city sewer system is piped to the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD) in Duluth for treatment. The treatment is similar to a septic system, but on a larger scale.

So, you might be asking why I am interested in the secret life of water. Well, the quick answer is that water is a limited resource. There is the same amount of water on Earth as there was when Earth was formed. The water from your faucet could contain molecules from water that dinosaurs drank.

Cool! But wait, there’s more.

Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. That leaves just 1% for all of humanity’s needs — all of our agricultural, residential, manufacturing, community and personal needs.

Water is part of a deeply interconnected system. What we pour on the ground ends up in our water, and what we spew into the sky ends up in our water.


So, the final point of my interest in the secret life of water is keeping it safe. One way I am doing this is by eliminating as many chemicals as possible in all of my cleaning. I am replacing the chemicals with things like baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar and salt. This saves money both in the cost of cleaning supplies and in the costs of treating used water.

Natural cleaning products result in a purer environment. Using natural cleaners also contributes to a healthier environment. They help reduce pollution to waterways and air. Conventional cleaners can easily seep into a water supply, and water treatment plants have difficulty treating a large volume of such chemicals.

The city of Carlton is going to give away two natural cleaning kits in October. Every address in town will be entered in the drawing. Two winners will be contacted.

Natural cleaning recipes are available to everyone. Visit for cleaning recipes and sewer and septic tips or contact me if you would like a copy: 218-384-4229 or .

Jodie Johnson is the deputy clerk for the city of Carlton.

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