Water Musings

On Sunday, the most stringent water use restrictions in memory will take effect in Midland. The city's "Drought Contingency Plan" is detailed here under the heading of "Stage 2 - Moderate Water Shortage Conditions." Earlier this week we received a letter from the city showing how our monthly water bill will increase if we use the same amount this summer as we did last summer, and it's not a pretty sight. In most cases, it's a threefold increase. (Although I must admit we're in better shape than some of our friends, one of whom is facing a $1,200/month bill if they don't change their habits.)

I'd like to be able to report that the ongoing drought, accompanying water shortage, and pessimistic outlook for improvement has universally altered attitudes, but that's not the case. 

Believe it or not, some people haven't even heard about the new restrictions. I exchanged emails with a woman in our neighborhood thanking me for sending out a reminder about the new plan, because their family "doesn't watch local news or subscribe to the local newspaper." [Unrelated side note: I'm mystified by this; how can someone take so little interest in their community? I can understand if there are economic issues at work that might limit access to news media, but our neighborhood isn't exactly in the "crack-house ghetto" category.]

Others are choosing to meet the situation head-on: they'll just get their own personal water supply by drilling a well. Someone is doing just that a couple of streets over from us. The cost of the well will likely approach 5% of the value of their home, but they have the right to decide how to spend their money. More troubling to me is the apparent attitude that, while our lakes may be drying up, there's an infinite supply of water in the aquifer underneath the city. But if a hundred new water wells are drilled each month by people who are determined to maintain their previous levels of consumption - if not increase them - I'm not sure that will be the case. And the sad result will be that some people who rely on their wells for their only source of potable water will go thirsty thanks to others who used that source to fill swimming pools and water lawns. Legal? Yes. Ethical? Questionable. Considerate? Nope.

Our homeowner's association dues are contributing to this ethical quandary.  Our neighborhood ponds are the central showpieces for the development, but they are kept full by pumping from water wells. The streams make a pretty sight, flowing through the landscape and over lovely manmade waterfalls, but I can't reconcile that with the drought-stricken pasture surrounding the development.

Some of the residents in our neighborhood are trying to get all the watering possible before the new restrictions kick in. That's my assessment, anyway, judging by the amount of water standing in the intersections and running down the gutters during the early morning hours of certain days of the week.

Photo of bucket in showerDebbie and I are doing our small part to adapt to the new paradigm. We've already been running our sprinkler system just once a week, and for less than the two total hours we'll be permitted under the new restrictions. We've managed to stay under the 10,000 gallon per month limit for the past six months, and intend to continue doing so. We also bought some five gallon buckets at Home Depot and are catching gray water from the bathtub and shower to hand-water selected plants and trees. We're also getting serious about a complete makeover of our landscaping, including removing the entire lawn and replacing it with hardscaping and xeriscaping. (A challenge will be finding a local professional landscape architect who specializes in this kind of design.)

Many people are turning to artificial turf to retain the semblance of naturally green landscape. We were once tempted to consider that, but decided against it. I think we'd be more favorably disposed if they included some artificial weeds, some half-dead spots, and some unevenly "mowed" patches to better approximate our reality.

I think the city is making a mistake by telling us that we just need to get through this next year, implying that when the new pipeline and water supply comes on line in 2013, we'll be able to go back to our profligate ways. The truth is, we'll never be able to go back - nor should we. But that's apparently a lesson that will take a generation's passing to learn.

6 Comments

Didn't wanna hijack your post with a super lengthy comment, so I responded (in part) thusly.

I believe we West Texans need to begin to permanently shift away from the antiquated and unsustainable notion of the lush suburban lawn, but from the big picture perspective, I still cannot fathom why the U.S. doesn't do something to both alleviate the annual flooding in the Ohio River Valley and the near-perpetual drought conditions in Texas (and perhaps other Southwest regions as well.

However, since the 2012 Projected Flood Risk is below average for many of the areas afflicted in years past, there's no point in expecting short-sighted leaders to make any proactive measures.

The water conservation edicts that are in place in Midland, had me thinking of the 1984 movie adaptation of the novel 'Dune' created by Frank Herbert, in which the dry world Arrakis uses a couple of methods of preserving a scare water resource.

From the Dune Movie wiki:

Herbert's series of Dune novels are peppered with other technologically advanced devices. In Dune (1965), water is scarce on the desert planet Arrakis; the native Fremen use a type of air well called a windtrap to condense moisture from the air and collect it in vast catch basins.[22] They also collect moisture from the dead using a device called a deathstill.[7]

I think I can safely go out on a limb and say, that collecting moisture from the dead is off the table at this moment.

We're in Odessa and while I do miss a lush green lawn, it boggles my mind the amount of time, energy, and water, folks out here dump into keeping a yard that is completely unnatural for the area. We're planning on bringing a landscaper friend out from Llano who has experience in xeriscaping yards to help us redo our front lawn. Its tiny and consists mostly of dust and mustard weeds, so it is in desperate need of improvement. We have planted some drought tolerant plants in the flowerbeds though for a start...

wow! $1200/month that's a lot. Water conservation is the key to all this problem. We should learn as to how we can recycle used water. One good example is to use the water from your laundry to flush toilet bowls.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Eric published on March 30, 2012 9:06 AM.

Safe Bicycling Route in Midland, Texas was the previous entry in this blog.

"Stop Waterboarding Your Lawn" is the next entry in this blog.

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