BY NORM ROURKE
Summer is here with a vengeance – again. And with it are the water wasters. No matter where you go, there is evidence most people think water will flow for eternity. Private and commercial water users are equally guilty of allowing water to gush down gutters as sprinklers go full blast.
Commercial [that includes the nonprofits, e.g., hospitals, churches etc.] water users however are the worst abusers of this rapidly diminishing natural resource since they usually use more of it. With sprinklers on timers that never seem to shut off, water rushes down gutters like a dam has burst. In most places, one can have their car washed as the water wasted on center median vegetation shoots out onto the street rather than on the intended vegetation.
Obsessed with being part of the so-called “Green Country,” Tulsa water users fill gutters with rivers of water. Big water users in Tulsa think nothing of wasting water as their sprinklers go nonstop to keep high maintenance vegetation alive.
Around 71st Street and Yale Avenue alone, water flows down gutters or soaks the streets as sprinklers on center medians and commercial property is wasted.
All this to have high maintenance vegetation kept alive in blistering heat.
What most of these water wasters don’t consider is the total cost of maintaining all this. Not only do they spend [and waste] a lot of money watering, they also spend money keeping the stuff alive, replacing dead vegetation, trimming and general upkeep. All of this requires a maintenance crew.
There are alternatives other cities with limited water supplies are using. They don’t waste water on vast municipal or commercial plots. The residents are restricted on the use of water and face hefty fines for unnecessary use of water … especially if it’s running down the street as it does in many Oklahoma cities.
Using xeriscape plants is one alternative to high water using vegetation. They are plants that thrive in heat and limited water and require little maintenance. Many can survive winter weather. But even if they don’t, their replacement costs don’t come near the cost of the water being wasted on the other type vegetation. They can be replaced – the water running down the gutters or soaking the streets can’t.
Cities in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and places where water is scarce use xeriscape plants or other landscaping techniques that eliminate the need for water and at the same time cut down overall maintenance and replacement costs. The results are beautiful roadways and grounds.
“But these are desert areas in desert states,” many will respond. “We’re not a desert and don’t want to look like one.” Keep gushing water all over the place and it won’t be long until Oklahoma water wasters will have created a desert landscape.
The only way water conservation will be taken serious is to impose fines on private and commercial users who abuse this non replaceable natural resource. That includes churches, hospitals and any other entity that pumps water down gutters and on the streets to have a patch of greenery so it can be part of “Green Country.”
Almost every summer, residents in Oklahoma cities are put on some form of water rationing or restriction. Have they not figured out why? Unfortunately they are unconcerned about conserving water [or anything else for that matter]. Hey, it’s water. I turn on a tap and voila! It’s there. Why should I care? But let a water line break and cut off their water and the howling begins.
Recently while leaving a Wal-Mart at night, we encountered a river of water running out into the parking lot. The source was uncontrolled sprinklers going full blast in the garden area. My wife spoke to the night manager about the “criminal” wasting of water as she slogged through it. That person said it would be reported to the store manager the next day.
This is only one example of water waste.
I could list many area water wasters who will make us all pay for their carelessness when water restrictions become a way of life.
The cities noted earlier don’t fool around with this matter. They even encourage and pay for residential water users to replace grass and other vegetation requiring heavy amounts of water with xeriscape plants and landscaping. They have found [Las Vegas for example] it has saved millions of dollars in water use. Homeowners have realized a benefit as well: It has reduced their cost of maintenance and upkeep.
Why can’t Oklahomans think outside the box when it comes to wasting water on things that will have to be replaced anyhow and require crews to maintain it?
– Norm Rourke lives in Beggs, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer