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Keep It Yellow and Mellow for Earth Day

We're back in a period of warm weather and drought. You can observe Earth Day 2012 by conserving water. Here's how.

Water worries creep up again as surely as the water level in Lake Allatoona creeps down. It’s been some four years since the record low lake levels of our 2007 drought. And in case you haven’t noticed, we’re headed in that direction again. 

Record warm weather has dried up our April showers this spring, and climatologists who know say that our weather this spring is more like Tampa than Atlanta. Whether you attribute that to man-made global warming or the extra-human rhythms of a diffident G*d, it’s warmer and drier in East Cobb, and the dark predictions of long ago warning of days when drinking water would be more valuable than gasoline seem closer to reality than doom-saying.

Water use as public policy is a sticky wicket. Cobb and Cherokee have spent seven times what they projected for a reservoir project that isn’t yet online after 12 years of wrangling and construction. Politicians and oystermen and engineers from three states have been fighting over how much water Metro Atlanta should not use for decades now. 

The latest move to add reservoirs to capture even more water north of ATL is only leading to more arbitration, injunction, and high dollar per hour legal angst. In Hall County the proposed Glades Reservoir is designed to accommodate an estimated 800,000 additional flushing and rinsing residents by the year 2060. And the likelihood is that everyone downstream will fight that reservoir until then.

But water use as personal and family policy is easier to manage. So today I come to you as the neighborhood ecology nag, reminding you that Earth Day is coming up next Sunday, April 22. Conserving and protecting our natural resources is quickening from a utopian goal into a necessary daily practice. 

It is not our American birthright to waste water in 2012. Here is my Earth Day wish list for everyday household water resource management on your street:

  • Don’t keep the water running while you brush your teeth. This seems obvious but old habits can die hard.
  • It doesn’t take 20 gallons of water to wash your dirty dishes. Please wash them by hand with the sink plugged, or use your dishwasher. Doing both is borderline OCD and wastes a lot of water. Most current dishwashers are far more energy and water efficient than your by-hand efforts. 
  • Have your plumber check your pipes for leaks. A leaky toilet is a water wastrel, growling away in a far corner of your house.
  • Consider collecting the gray water from your shower or bath for use on your garden. This creates your own water recycling loop.
  • My dirty car is my own symbol of water conservation, as sure a sign that I don’t want to waste water as an Earth Day bumper sticker. And if you must wash and shine your pride and joy, don’t leave the hose on and running while you scrub.
  • Last, but not least, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow.” Obviously East Cobb Patch readers are made up of polite company. But it’s important for all of you to know that when you flush away gallons of clean treated water to remove 10 ounces of urine from your commode you are wasting an enormous amount of water.  

This can take some getting used to if you, like me, have always enjoyed the satisfying swirl and flush at the conclusion of each successful effort since potty-training. But if you are reasonably regimented on weekly cleaning and scrubbing, letting it mellow will not be a hardship.  

Ask anyone who grew up or has spent any length of time in a developing country and they will tell you that abundant clean drinking water is a precious thing never to be taken for granted.

In America we’ve been allowed to take it for granted throughout living memory. But supply and demand being what they are, we can’t take it for granted any more. 

Please do your part for Earth Day this year and commit to conserving our water.

Jim Corcoran April 15, 2012 at 02:13 PM
"As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?" "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency." UN Food and Agricultural Organization's report "Livestock's Long Shadow" “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund Why would someone choose to be vegan? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org

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