Monday, October 15, 2007

Nor Any Drop To Drink

Scene I.
I was up in northern Virginia this weekend. In Low-down County (i.e. Loudon) there were signs on almost every street reading “NO OUTDOOR WATERING!” You see, because of the drought, the Loudon Board of Supervisors has imposed mandatory water restrictions.

Scene II.
I was back in Richmond last night. (I can no longer call this place River City, ‘cause there ain’t too much river left.) Yesterday, my neighbor across the street turned on his lawn sprinkler and it ran all night. This morning there was lots of water running off his property and down the street. I read in the TD this morning that Chesterfield County’s mandatory water restrictions go into effect today. The restrictions apparently are rather modest: lawn watering only three days per week; car and patio washing two days per week.

As for other jurisdictions in the neighborhood, the TD reported:
· Colonial Heights is scheduled to consider restrictions in the coming weeks.
· Dinwiddie put mandatory restrictions in place earlier.
· Petersburg officials asked residents to begin observing restrictions. City Council may make those restrictions mandatory at an Oct. 23 meeting.
· Prince George put mandatory restrictions in place earlier.

What about the City of Richmond and Henrico County? Well, if it doesn’t rain in a few weeks, maybe there will be a need for restrictions.

[I started this piece this morning. I put it away for a while. Then I drove across the mostly-rocks James for choir practice. But as I left I noticed that a different neighbor was pouring lots of water onto his lawn. My recollection is that under voluntary restrictions, nobody can water on Mondays. Well, I guess my neighbor volunteered not to comply.]

So, comparing scenes I and II, I started wondering: what is happening in Loudon County that is not happening in Exposed-rocks City? Now I know that Loudon County is really crowded. It’s already what Chesterfield County will look like in a few years—wall to wall houses; hundreds of miles of highways, all of them constantly congested; myriad strip malls trying to serve the needs of far too many people. But is that why they need a total ban on outdoor watering? Perhaps they have had a more severe drought than we. Maybe they have lawns that drink up more water than ours. Or, it could be that their newer water mains leak more than our old ones. And, maybe, just maybe, the Potomac is not as mighty a river as the James.

But suppose there are other reasons—so secret that even the TD can’t find out about them—for there being no need for water restrictions in Richmond.

1- It may be that our gaggle of nine has received classified weather forecasts indicating that over the next twenty days ten inches of rain will fall over the city—one half inch per day. Channels 6 and 12 meteorologists, “Eat your hearts out for missing that.”
2- Maybe the mayor has hired a rain maker, using the emergency procurement provisions of the city charter (which he learned to use when he bought an “emergency” audit for the city assessor last winter). We all know that dark clouds have been hanging over this city for months. The rainmaker can seed those and voila we’ll have lots of rain.
3- On the other hand, maybe we don’t need any rain. Perhaps the city has a secret stash of water. It could be hidden under Uncle Doug’s riverside ranch. (There’s nothing like the sun setting over the James.) Millions of acre-feet of H20, on tap for a thirsty city.

So, citizens of Richmond, consider yourselves lucky that we don’t have a City Council that would panic and impose mandatory restrictions (that my neighbor could not volunteer to ignore). Count your blessings that our beloved legislators would not sacrifice our clean cars and green lawns to make sure there is enough water to drink, for personal hygiene, for cooking, for putting out fires and other nonessentials. And, I’m sure we can add to the name of our beloved river. We can call it the Hidden James.

BTW, I advise that you start hording bottled water.

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