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My lawn’s wet this morning… it must be Thursday

27 July 2006

Birmingham is in the midst of a moderate drought.  The water company has put us under a Stage Two advisory, which means we must limit the outdoor watering and use of water. Since I leave at an even address, this means that I can only water my lawn on Monday and/or Thursday each week.  It’s not allowed to run the sprinkler between 10am and 10pm but anyone who did was wasting the effort to evaporation in the hot Alabama sun (mine has always run at 4am). We can wash our cars with buckets, but only professionals may use pressure washers to clean driveways and decks.  The practice of using a hose to clean off walkways is forbidden, but using a broom is more efficient anyway.

The marketing message to the general public was generally lost a week ago.  The paper mused that we were supposed to be conserving water, yet consumption increased.  Of course it did!  The lawns were thirsty and neighbors who had not been reached with the alert simply responded to their property’s needs.  I think that it took a week or so of being in this “stage two” for the word to find its way into the conciousness of those with automatic sprinklers.

What makes conservation of water utterly important in the Birmingham region is our source.  While most other great cities in the nation were built near bodies of water, ours was not.  The location was chosen solely on the basis of the 3 raw materials to make cast iron and specifically located at the intersection of 3 railroads.  No thought (at the time) was given to the long-term needs of a growing city and region.  Water was secured from wells and natural springs, but as the region grew in population another source was needed.  Most residents of this fair region do not know that our water is drawn from the Cahaba River, around 10 miles south of downtown.  It’s quite a simple operation, but it doesn’t come out of a dammed resovoir like Atlanta or out of one of the Great Lakes like Chicago.  This makes OUR need to conserve even more important.

Many years ago my mother came to visit me from California when I lived in Atlanta.  We were in the middle of a similar drought, but all outdoor watering was disallowed and even the drive-through car washes were shut down (which is odd, since they recycle their water).  I picked her up at the airport and she remarked that how could we be in a drought when all the trees were still green?  Such is the mystery of droughts in the south…

Thank God we’re not subject to everything turning brown and becoming fodder for brush fires threatening life and property like those on the left coast must endure.  Just the same, we are in danger of sucking a river dry by wanting to keep our lawns green.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 31 July 2006 12:45 pm

    The Elyton Land Company did have the foresight to connect our water works to both the Cahaba and Warrior watersheds (Five Mile Creek was first to be tapped, the Cahaba pumping station came later). So while we are still susceptible to constricted supply in periods of drought, we are not dependent on a sole stream for our water as we were before 1887.

  2. 31 July 2006 5:05 pm

    Hi Curtis,

    Thanks for making a Flickr contact. I live in Pelham, which is, of course, equally effected by the recent drought in central Alabama.

    Ironically, yesterday we went down to the Montgomery Zoo and got caught in a morning downpour, decidedly wierd weather for Alabama in the summer.

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