Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Woes of Water

Water shortage has been on the news lately. Neighbors are ratting out neighbors in Atlanta if they are illegally watering their lawn. Will it be a harbinger of things to come for sunny Southern California where I live? I hope not. I hope we can learn the lessons beforehand before it gets to that. For me, it’s about paying attention. Hard not to, I think, when the Water Board is running ads on the TV that, according to them, the water infrastructure in California is near collapse and the water tables are at an extreme low. The environmentalist in me wants to say, ha, ha – we told you so! And for pete’s sake, we live in a desert climate and people plant (and water things) like we’re living in England! But I digress.

The fact is, we are in draught. But I don’t want to focus on the word “draught.” It can be a scary word if you let your mind wander to the parched lands of Africa. Maybe the word itself here simply means that we don’t have as much anticipated water as we’re using currently. We are asked to “conserve.” That’s a few steps away from restriction. Then scarcity. I don’t want to have a scarcity mentality. If the Universe is full of abundance then how can we have a scarcity? And yet, here it is. So why? Is it because we are so unconscious in our use of things? Is the amount of water consumption we use really necessary? Is this water shortage just based on an anticipated need? And if so, do we really need what we are using? Hmmm.

I hate to be the water police. And yet, when I walk into bathroom at work, see someone brushing their teeth while the faucet is running at high blast, I have to say something. You only need the water to wet the toothbrush in the beginning and to rinse it off, and the spit out in the end. Why keep it on? How can they not realize the waste – that when you open the tap halfway or even all the way, you’re wasting more water by the second? For what? It simply isn’t needed at that point. I tried to say it nicely, pass it as a joke, like, ohmigosh, how silly of you. Yet I’m seething inside because I can’t believe someone is that na├»ve or unconscious. Especially when she’s part of the group that does PR for the environmental defenders. Try reading the literature. But like I say, that person is unconscious. But is their unconsciousness a choice?

Just because I say I hate being the water police, doesn’t prevent me from continuing. When I walked into the kitchen, saw another co-worker rinsing out the sink at the fullest blast, I have to admit, I shrieked. I could see gallons going down the sink! How can you waste water like that!,” I told him. “What? I’m washing out the sink,” he said in his defense. (A weak point, I would have to say). “Don’t you know we’re in a water crisis!,” said me, still shrieking. The culprit said, “What crisis?" My other co-worker standing next to me validated my point. “Don’t you watch the news?,” said I, incredulously. “No, too depressing,” he retorted, like that would make a difference. The sink water, during this exchange, remained on full blast. Did it get any cleaner? No. Did my co-worker learn anything? I’m not sure. To me, he’s willfully ignorant. Perhaps he does have deep-seated reasons for not watching the news. Well, I gave him some and he chose to ignore it. He didn’t want to change his behavior. To him, he was acting just ducky.

That brings me to the behavior of the Atlantans who continued to water their lawn? Why? What purpose does having a lawn have? From what I understand, the genesis of having a lawn in this country was a status symbol. Showing off to your neighbors that you could have a lawn meant prosperity. Does it still mean that? Are people really aware of it? When people see a dried out lawn are they thinking, “Well that’s a conscious neighborhood saving water!” I think actually people criticize that person, thinking they are a lay-about who doesn’t care or have self-respect. But then again, I don’t know what people are really thinking. I just know that when I see someone who has replaced their lawn here with a xeriscape lawn, I get very excited. I may even frighten the neighbors when I enthusiastically tell them, “way to go,” and “that looks really cool!” I also may frighten the ones that I glare at when I pass them on a walk just standing out on their property watering, in this middle of the draught…. Oh, wait, not draught – in this water challenged time.

In Los Angeles proper, (I live outside the city), they have begun restricting when people can water their lawns. You can still water but it’s on select days. Why are people so attached to their lawns? Why the maintenance, the expense, the fuss? Okay, if people have kids, I guess they want a lawn for their kids to play on. Wait, aren’t parents these days even afraid of letting their kids play outside because of predators? I might be more hesitant to let them play on a lawn full of herbacide. What if they pick up sprayed grass and put it in their mouth? Here I go, digressing again. But I do want to continue the point about what people spray on their lawns, to keep them green and weed free. These poisons kill things like dandelions which are actually beneficial plants, not only medicinally but nutritionally. It’s the whole unconscious thing. Do they know why they are killing dandelions? When did dandelions become bad, and homogenized green lawns good? Did someone say, “Go on! Get those terrorists weeds and get a real man’s lawn!” It just seems like a pointless struggle to me.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just to plant native species, that don’t need high maintenance and care? And if people have backyards, and kids, they can designate a space for them. And if they really want their kids to experience nature, why not plant an organic vegetable and herb garden that can be more than just an ornament? It can feed their family. I see people already doing this, using their front lawn to plant a vegetable garden. Maybe the new status for the future is being able to have the free time to grown our own food again. Not all of us seem to have the time – caught up in the business of our lives - to have the time to even stop and think, why do we have lawns? What is necessary? Can we do this before the water stops running?

In the meantime, I’ll continue what I’ve been doing for years. I don’t flush my own toilet after #1 ever single time I use the toilet. And I try to flush the toilet as often as I can using the water I’ve collected from the shower. When I rinse my veggies with plain water, I use that water to water my plants in the yard. My landlord pays for my water so I don’t do it to save money. I do it because I appreciate that I have water and that I don’t have to go to a well and fetch it. I appreciate the abundance that I have and I want to use it wisely. The real thirst I have is to live a life that is not wasteful and with this practice I quench that thirst.

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