Wednesday, June 15

Nor Any Drop To Drink

Went to make a cup of tea yesterday afternoon. Very low water pressure. Ran around the house interviewing possible suspects. Nothing leaking. I was starting to wonder if this was part of the Great Indianapolis Water Shortage. Slipped into my shoes, went outside to check with the neighbors. Met giant wall of water coming the other direction.

Not quite, but a water main had burst one block south and one block east, on the exact spot where it burst two summers ago. That one was torrential. This one was maybe two-three inches worth. But it all comes right at us, or more specifically the usually dry creek bed two houses north. The last one roared into the creek and roared away into the big drain it disappears into. This one was moving slow enough that we got more of it in the front yard, just a happy little marsh between the two maples.

Then it started to rain. Very loud, violent thunderstorm with rain blowing sideways. Two inches in the rain gauge, for what that's worth, in about twenty minutes. But thankfully this morning it was just a memory, except that the mulch from underneath the shrubs out front had been rearranged and peppered with floating trash. And may I say I'm grateful so many people have stopped smoking.

It also pooled in my head, at the confluence of The Great Indianapolis Water Shortage. Last week the water company asked us, kindly, to restrict watering our lawns to the hours of 1AM to 6AM, later amended to start at 10PM. See, it had been hot and dry for a week, and people had started turning on their sprinklers. This created a problem. Not a problem as in running out of water; the three reservoirs are full to brimming. The problem was the water company was struggling to keep up with peak usage. The announcement pissed me off, well out of proportion to the request. I probably ought to note here that although I'm an avid gardener I'm not lawn-obsessed. I have probably the second-worst lawn on the block and the fifth worst in the neighborhood. It's shady, with big, shallow-rooted trees. There must be five different grasses growing there, in at least two colors. I not only refuse to poison the thing in the pursuit of some suburban astroturf wet dream, I harangue any neighbors who hire a lawn service. I've got a file folder full of info about the sort of crap (like 2,4-D) they spray on your lawn. I've been helped in this by the fact that the worst offender on the block watched his daughter's pet dog die of brain bubbles. The lawn care bozos make only two stops in the neighborhood these days.

But then, I do take care of the thing, up to minimal standards, anyway, and I'm not going to watch what grass I do coax to grow turn brown just so they can water golf courses with no reduction in pressure. Nobody tells them to water at midnight. Nobody said anything about pool services or laundromats or, for that matter, lawn services. Sure, it was voluntary. But they can, and do, announce ozone emergencies where you can be ticketed for mowing the lawn (not me; I've got an electric, and a push mower if it comes to that) but the commercial operations are exempted. I'll be the first in line to cooperate when it's a serious matter. Til that point, y'know, I just don't feel like pitching in to make life easier for a bunch of people who bitch about having to pay taxes.

And at that point it occurred to me that there's been some fundamental change. I'll never waste a natural resource. Future generations, if any, don't deserve it. I've been pretty damned green all my adult life, though compared to most of the rest of the planet I'm still an energy hog. But somehow the idea of being courteous to my fellow citizens, regardless of their return of those courtesies, is under serious revision. It's no longer just the polluters and the racists and the me-firsters. Everybody who votes Republican, and every Democrat who thinks it's worth tossing environmental regulations on the public incinerator to win a few votes. Everybody who doesn't get involved. I'm not gonna shoot up a fast food joint. But it just isn't the America I once hoped to make even better.

The rain had ended by the second half-hour of local news. They relayed the warning to stay out of the creek two miles downstream from where we once caught frogs and bluegills and chewed on wild mint. The three-inch rainfall Sunday, the one that had saved all the non-commercial lawns in town, had caused another overflow in our 19th Century sewage system.


Anonymous said...

Our lawn guys do not put anything on the lawn - no chemicals, no weed killers, no fertilizer, nothing. Mow, blow and go. A little raking & trimming, sometimes. If we want to kill off the clover, and we do, we have to do it ourselves.

You gotta quit watching that local news.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe they're restricting water usage just because the utility can't keep up with it. When the resevoirs are low, or a drought is predicted, it's understandable. Of course, every summer I do what I can to promote the conservation of water - I just drink more alcohol.

Of course, down here in Charlotte, the city really has us by the balls. If it's dry, then we spend a fortune watering lawns and things like that. However, if it rains a lot, The city charges us a fortune for stormwater runoff. What the hell is that? If I wwanted to pay for rainwater, I would tithe at a local church. Maybe the city has a deal worked out with God. I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Here in Seattle, we had a lousy winter, water-wise. There's no way we have enough to make it through the summer without water restrictions, and of course we get a lot of our power from hydro-electric dams.
Dams have the unfortunate side-effect of killing fish, in particular our spawning and young salmon and trout. Various solutions have been tried, including fish ladders and trucking the fish around the dams, but basically, the equation is, the more water that goes through the turbines = the more fish that die.
If the water levels are high, or the power demand is low, you can shunt more water around the turbines, and spare more fish.
The low-demand thing doesn't really happen much, since the companies can sell excess power. But the state can, in the process of protecting some of our in-fact-endangered species of fishes, insist that more water be released into the rivers, and force the buyers to go elsewhere.
It's not a perfect solution, but nothing is.

Our newest housemate, the one who moved in in October, has a habit of turning on, and leaving on, every damned thing in the house with a switch.
We finally dragged her up to the very lovely waterfall up here with the very ugly power plant at the top of it, and held a lecture on the subject of "Wasting Resources Kills Fish".

In addition to this, I've spent the last year fighting the home owners' association where we live over issues like their love for Weed & Seed and Grass & Grow, especially around the pond (and then they wonder why the cattails flourish), inappropriate landscape plants and monoculture turfgrass, and why we need a recycling collector who is not the same as our garbage collector, even if the alternatives do cost more.

I'm aware that none of these things are likely to make the slightest difference in the long, or even short, run, as we fling ourselves headlong into ecological denial, but somehow it's harder to give up.

Isn't it sad that we've become reduced to Quixotic gestures while counting down the days.
It's not the Rapture I'm worried about. It's the point where we're *all* environmental refugees, and there's nowhere left to go.

Pardon my ranting, I obviously got up on the wrong side of the logging road this morning.