Monday, November 12, 2012

Water Everywhere?
Ithaca, NY
Water Reflections

Former pond where peepers, wood frogs and cat tails lived-- East Hill, Town of Ithaca

              On my morning walks, I stop by the marshy swamp behind my house and watch for frogs or skeeters in the summer, the sky through cattails in winter. Today it is filled in with grass and dried leaves. The cattails are dead. Where have the frogs hopped? I have no idea.
            The pond uphill where I enjoy hearing peepers in spring is completely dry. The reeds are brown. Grass is beginning to grow in the center. I can walk across the whole thing on dry land. My friend’s spring-fed pond is always full, except in August. It has been down at least 3 feet all summer and autumn.

Former marsh now dried up and filling in with grass--East Hill, Town of Ithaca
            Despite the heavy rains in fall and the storm rains we had from Sandy, our plentiful water has disappeared. We hope it is only temporary. NASA maps of underground water show very low supplies throughout the entire state and region. This is clearly not good.
            We have always had the relaxed luxury of abundant water, of being a northern rainforest. We think of water conservation as something for California, Arizona, Nevada, not us. Take a look at your own nearby waters and see what you think.
            True, we may have a very wet winter full of snow and precipitation. We surely couldn’t have a drought two years in a row, winter and summer, we think. But no one knows. The weather was always hard to predict; now it is even harder.
            Last fall, the Town of Ithaca Conservation Board newsletter talked about water conservation to save on electricity. Why? Because water flows downhill easily to the Bolton Point Municipal Water Treatment Facility, but it must be pumped back uphill to all our homes and businesses at a cost of $500,000 a year -- half a million dollars to deliver water to our faucets, the largest cost in the Town budget.
            It’s time for us to start thinking of ways to turn on the faucets less. “Where there are faucets, there is wasted water,” has been my motto for a while. It doesn’t have to run continuously when we brush our teeth, wash our hands and face or dishes. We don’t have to take long showers using 100s of gallons of water. Americans use an average of 1,000 gallons of water a week per person compared to about half that for Europeans. Each toilet flushes alone is about 6 gallons.
            Yes, water does recycle itself back into the clouds, but if it doesn’t rain or snow, it takes longer to return, sometimes as long as a hundred years. So down the drain and back into the faucet is far from an instant circle. And then there is the electricity cost to consider.
            Our water billing costs are about to increase. This is a good time to start to think about your own water habits—you and the faucet. If you’re curious, you can take a short, fun look how much water you use a week at – good for all ages, with colorful cartoons.