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Front Page » April 30, 2002 » Opinion » Water use is a personal responsibility
Published 4,615 days ago

Water use is a personal responsibility


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

Well the annual knashing of teeth has begun. The debate about water, while actually a year round sport, gets to playoff intensity about this time of year.

The first city to really address the problem this season was Helper. It began a couple of weeks ago when the council discussed the possibility of cutting the base amount of water people had to pay for and by restricting watering hours.

Last Thursday an ordinance was passed doing these very things. A number of citizens were on hand to voice their minds, most against any kinds of change. Some had misconceptions about what was going to be done, others just didn't like the changes no matter what the situation.

As the driest year in many, and one in a string of four continues, more and more communities are going to be faced with drastic measures to conserve water. They will have to make decisions that people won't like. They will have to enforce ordinances that are strict.

It's just part of living in the desert during a drought. There will be those with water: people who have secondary water will be able to water more freely than those without. Others, more able to afford it will water as much as they want because they can pay the extra "overage fees."

Water is much like everything else: it is a matter of supply and demand. If there is a lot it is cheap and plentiful.

If there isn't much it is expensive and hard to get.

The inequities in water between areas of the state, between counties, between municipalities, even between neighbors adds to the debate, confusion and emotion.

That last description, emotion, is the one that often seems to rule the debate about water and who should have it and who should not. That's because water, food and these days, oil, are all necessities for a community to flourish. A desert community without water will die on the vine just like a dry garden will produce very poor watermelons.

I grew up on a dairy farm in the middle of a desert community. I remember many droughts, but I don't remember anything as bad, at least from my families point of view than the drought of 1960. I was only eight years old, so the impact of that years water shortage on my fathers business must have been very profound for me to remember. At eight few of us are concerned about such things.

I remember my father and two uncles who ran the farm with him going "up the ditch" in the middle of the night because someone had taken our water to irrigate their garden and we needed every drop to get our alfalfa and grain through the summer.

I remember my dad worrying himself almost to death about what would happen should the water from the canyons above stop flowing.

I remember a poor harvest, compared to other years, in everything from tomatoes to wheat. I remember apples that were half the size of normal and water holes in our pasture that had always been alive with frogs, dry as a bone.

I remember the flow of the Jordan River looked more like a near dry creek bed than the flowing stream it usually was. Even with the pumps on Utah Lake pouring water into the waterway, it still was as low as I remember it before or since.

Yet people who lived around our farm had green lawns and lush gardens. As much as officials proclaimed the shortage, many watered their lawns indiscriminately, no matter the time of day. At eight years old it was unthinkable to me that the taps could run dry. It must have been that way for many of the adults too.

Despite the loss of income and the hard times I never remember my dad complaining about what other people did with their water. They could water their lawns all they wanted and he could have dry fields where his very livelihood was shriveling up and he would just say "I can only worry about what we do with our water, not what other people are doing with theirs."

Now, 42 years later, we are faced with another long drought. There have been many others in that span of years, but this one is as dry as any we have had in a very long time.

Water is a commodity we are used to having in abundance. But as the years go by and populations and demand increases, we will all be responsible for what we individually do about it.

Remember when you were in school and someone was concerned about what someone else was doing. The teacher always said, "Stop worrying about what your neighbor is doing and take care of your own business."

Maybe we can all learn something from that.

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April 30, 2002
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