You and I as persons are made up largely, about two thirds, of water. Good old H20. Living without potable drinking water simply isn’t an option. Without food, you can live a long time. Without water in Texas? In the winter, you’d be lucky to survive a little over a week; in the summer, you could expect to last about four days. In the shade. Which we all know of which there is precious little in the Lone Star state.
Yet we seem to take the availability of clean, potable water for granted until we don’t have it. Notice how when water is turned off at your house for maintenance or something similar how immediately you feel thirstier and your hair feels dirtier? We use water to cook, bathe, drink, wash…yet we somehow seem to think there is an unlimited supply of clean, safe water that magically somehow flows from our taps.
So imagine my alarm as I interviewed Denise Hickey, the Public Relations Director for the North Texas Municipal Water District, when she educated me about the current drought and its alarming ramifications for citizens of North Texas. As a parent of three small Texans, I have a great stake in being informed regarding the water which is so pivotal to their survival. Whether or not you are a parent, you should be aware of the extent of the water problem in North Texas.
Did you know that 25% of the entire population of Texas lives in North Texas? That’s a lot of people in a small area, and we all need water. Water is just not as plentiful. We rely on rain for our drinking water, and even for a place that’s not known for it, we’ve had pitiful little of any rain. Lake Lavon, which provides water to McKinney, is down 12 1/2 feet, folks! This is a significant drop not seen before since the 1950s.
I know some of y’all are saying to yourselves: Oh, that tree-hugging hippie. Chicken Little, right? We had a drought like this in 2006 and in ’07 we rebounded. Yes, 2007 was a wet spring. But weather forecasters here are calling for a continuing La Nina pattern of excessive dryness for 2012. It’s just not looking likely things are going to get better as far as an increase of rainfall any time soon.
And add another environmental threat: the introduction from the North East of the Zebra mussel, which is transported when they stick to boats and other aquatic equipment that is moved from lake to lake. They clump together and clog up pipes, and once a lake is infested? State laws say that water may not be transported anywhere else. Guess who’s got these pesky vermin? Lake Texoma! We’re one borrowed boat away from having them in Lake Lavon.
It’s scary to think about our water supply being at such risk, but I am not being too much of an alarmist when I say we North Texans really need to take our heads out of the sand about this problem. But Eliska! I hear you saying, it’s not like I can seed a cloud! Whether or not it rains isn’t in my control. There isn’t much I can do about the lack of water availability around here except pray.
But I say to you, dear reader: Au contraire! Sure, part of this problem is a lack of rain, which is out of our control. But there are two ways for you to make a big difference in the future availability of enough clean water for us all:
Get educated. Where does your water come from? What are the lake levels there? What is the long term weather outlook for rain? The Zebra mussel threat? Visit the North Texas Municipal Water website for a complete run down on where your water comes from. They’re running a great awareness campaign called Water IQ (wateriq.org) where you can get the whole skinny on what you should be aware of regarding the continuing provision of water to your home. NTMW is also hard at work planning new resevoirs and even considering piping water from new sources if the funding is available.
Conserve. You would be amazed at how just a few minor adjustments to your use of water can make a huge difference. For example: cut your shower by five minutes, and boom! You’ve saved six gallons of water by the end of the week. You do the math for the 1.6 million people the NTMW serves water to. Fix that leaky toliet and save 40 gallons A DAY. That’s just one person!
Other ways to conserve: don’t use water to wash your driveway. Follow water restrictions. Xeroscape your yard: let’s face it. We’re a desert. What’s wrong with using sand and rock and cactus instead of the hilarity of trying to keep a magnolia alive? Don’t water too often or too much. Fix leaks. Fill your clothes and dishwashers before you run them. And those businesses that like to water the pavement along with that three foot square patch of grass? There’s a place at city website to turn in water violators.
So, come on, North Texans and my fellow citizens. We ARE Texans, after all. We are known for our ability to come together in tough times, known for our tenacity and creativity in solving problems, known for showing incredible solidarity in the face of rugged conditions. Let’s not just sit around and pray for rain. There is definitely a way to make this situation better. It’s within our grasp. Let’s work together to make sure a lack of water in Texas never becomes a reality.
TSB contributor Eliska Counce also writes a weekly “Momma Drama” column, which is published each Saturday.