Water Perspective

I begin this column with the sound of a leaf blower intermittently breaking the otherwise quiet afternoon with it’s fueled droning. I have become quite used to it, as it is a daily occurrence in the gated community in Palm Springs California where I now live.

Almost as much as the daily rain showers during the summer months in Polk County Florida where I was born, raised, and lived many of my 54 years before relocating just shy of eighteen months ago.

I’ve always loved the rain. Played in it as a child (if no thunder or lightning) and still love the sound of it on a roof (especially tin) or against a window. Will take a walk in it, if not too cold, and the world seems so much cleaner after a good wash down. During a really good thunder storm, I could see up to six inches easy in a day. L-O-V-E it.

Palm Springs annual rainfall is 5.5”. A-N-N-U-A-L. That means yearly folks. Now I get we are a geographical valley surrounded by mountains which keep much of the moisture away. While those on the other side can have buckets, we might receive just enough to make the asphalt stink. Unfair.

Plus, two months after I moved here, the state issued a mandated reduction in water usage to counteract the drought of the past four and probably future few years. As the area is a well-known resort for golfing, much of the water used was for keeping the greens in pristine condition for the guests. Most everyone in the state had to achieve a minimum of 26% while we were given a goal of 35%. Go figure.

Forced conservation or pay a hefty fine.

So, drastic measures were made. Public and hotel fountains were turned off. Medians were allowed to die before being ripped out for later landscaping. The public golf course I abut allowed all but the tees and holes to turn brown and only water when the snowbirds came down. My HOA decided not to plant “summer flowers” as the temperatures reach triple digits for weeks and would suffer without watering, being repeated again this year. The state even paid people incentives to rip out their grass and replace it with either xeriscaping or realistic artificial turf. Personal conservation tips continue to be a local nightly news segment.

You get used to it. Not that hard.

Fortunately for the state, El Nino alleviated some of the more severe drought conditions in the Central and Northern areas and some restrictions have been lessened. Hopefully people will have learned their lesson and gotten into the habit of making their conservation efforts the norm instead of former wasteful ways.

And what works here in the desert can also work in water drenched Florida. Yes, you have wonderfully wet, delicious, drenching rain and humidity. OMG, do I miss humidity. But you also have approximately one thousand people a day moving their butts to your neighborhood all soon sucking up water. And the tourists. Disney. Universal. Sea World. LEGOLAND. Water parks! Plus those conglomerations sucking profit from the aquifers to bottle and sell to people like me or industries using them for purposes where the state or you doesn’t benefit.

Florida will never suffer like California has, but your water situation isn’t going to improve unless people starting making changes. What opportunities does all this rain fall present to Floridians? Something as simple and aesthetically pleasing as a rain chain offers a simple solutions to water collecting or directing, easy changes that can go a long way are something to consider. Everyone needs to start treating nature with the respect it deserves and learn to work with it instead of working against. Begin repairing the damage we’ve inflicted done over the past eight score and some years.

Except for the lack of rain, and well, the mountain ranges where I lived then and now have more ecological similarities than differences and I look forward to exploring some of them in future columns to help save water and resources on both coasts for the health of our planet.

Eric Woodard

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Clouds over and obscuring the mountain range, but not a drop in Palm Springs. Photo by Eric Woodard

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