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Rain isn't an excuse for us to use more water

Did you walk outside the other day and think: What is this wet stuff falling from the sky?

At last, we had rain. After watching our lawns brown and our plants crisp, after serious discussions and cutbacks on how and when we water — we had rain, and lots of it.

In this sweet relief, we might be lulled into thinking less about the big picture — the state of the aquifer, the level of our reservoirs — and more about finding a break in the clouds so we can get the dog out for a walk between downpours.

We could easily forget we are in the thick of a serious drought and a 30-inch rainfall deficit over the past three years. And we can’t.

“Everything is so depleted and so low, we just have a long way to go,” says Robyn Felix, spokeswoman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. So out of Tampa comes this interesting water-related tableau that says much about how we view the straits we’re in.

The Tampa City Council imposed a ban on lawn sprinkling that began April 3, some of the most stringent restrictions around, and good for them.

According to a memo from the mayor Tuesday applauding the council’s “courage” in imposing rules not universally popular, the restrictions have saved 420 million gallons of water.

But some council members quickly wanted to reconsider.

John Dingfelder was the lone vote against the ban and later pushed to revisit the decision. But it was fellow board member and avowed greenie Linda Saul-Sena who made you do a double-take.

An accomplished politician who obviously cares about her town, she nonetheless can have a tin ear when it comes to the common folk. She seconded Dingfelder’s motion to lighten up on restrictions and go twice-monthly, and said she heard at cocktail parties from people worried about brown lawns.

Sure, because saving those perfect green velvet grasses that grace the homes of South Tampa are what we should worry about in a drought. Besides, you know, having enough water to drink and all.

At its meeting Thursday, the City Council is again expected to discuss twice-a-month sprinkling. Does this sound a little Jabberwockian to anyone but me? It’s raining again, so go ahead and use more water?

Isn’t this akin to getting yourself into serious credit card debt, then finding a part-time job to pay it off and even saving a little — and then celebrating by treating yourself to a major shopping spree?

In fact, Swiftmud officials think our recent soggy, lawn-soaking weather is a dandy time to skip your watering day altogether to conserve even more. Bottom line: We need to rethink the way we do water.

As in: imposing serious surcharges on over-the-top users, enough to hit even the let-them-eat-cake crowd. As in: changing our thinking on what makes a nice yard, not just manicured carpets of grass, but Florida-friendly, drought-tolerant plants. As in (and this is the big one): growth management to curb the trouble we’re already in.

Yes, rain has fallen, and it has been glorious. But it’s a drop in the bucket, so to speak, and a reminder of how we need to think about the water we waste without even thinking about it.

Rain isn't an excuse for us to use more water 05/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 4:53pm]
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