On recycling, street sweeping, and the non-obvious ways to protect public health
In places with paved streets and storm sewers, spring generally brings the ritual sweeping of the streets. It's an act that only appears cosmetic to many citizens, who probably wonder why their hard-earned tax dollars go to the tidying of concrete and asphalt that will only get dirty again.
■ But the real reason for street sweeping is to capture debris before it gets carried off into creeks and streams. And it is a very useful practice for helping to ensure the quality of drinking water for people living downstream.
■ All water is recycled, over and over again. Unlike rocks or sand or soil, new water isn't being generated. It's being transformed and cycle through nature, only to be perpetually used again. Keeping junk like sand and leaves and litter from contaminating it in its natural locations makes it easier to keep clean for those who will drink it next.
■ Good practices for protecting health aren't always obvious -- street sweeping certainly isn't. Municipal leaders should take care to explain their purposes creatively and often so that taxpayers understand the value they obtain from their bills.