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Readers React to Drought, Water Restrictions

Monday, August 9, 1999; 11:33 a.m. EDT

We want to hear from you.
How is the drought affecting your life? Tell us your story.
What are you doing to save water? Send us your hints.
Is your car really dirty? Is your garden really dead? We're looking for compelling images to illustrate the drought. Describe an image.

Please include your full name and phone number so a reporter or photographer can call you.
Following are excerpts from some readers' responses to the ongoing drought and the subsequent water restrictions.

I live in Leesburg, VA, where there are no mandatory restrictions at this time. And yet, I am not compelled to wash my car, water my newly planted lawn and shrubs, and I don't mind flushing only when necessary. I just think it's a scary thought to run out of water. These people who keep complaining need to wake up! It sounds like plain vanity to me. Are they afraid what others will think when they don't have the shiniest car or the nicest lawn on the block?
V. Mendoza
Leesburg, Va.

I never watered my lawn before the drought because of economical problems,but, my lawn was always green, all my neighbors worked at making their lawns look good. I wrote this to say ,that I don't understand what the big deal is about how a lawn looks, if it means we are helping to conserve water for our survival.
-Barbara Martin
Seat Pleasant, Md.

I live in Maryland and I don't mind doing my part in conserving water. But, I'm puzzled and hoping someone could explain something to me. I work in DC and this morning within 3 blocks I saw two gentlemen hosing off sidewalks. Maybe Maryland and Virginia should get their water from the same place the District does. They must have plenty.
-Susan Stymiest
I fully support Governor Glendening's imposition of mandatory restrictions on water use. Of course he is being criticized by officials in Northern Virginia . They want us to release our reserves into the Potomac so that they can stick a pipe out to the middle and suck it all up because they can't control their growth!
-Julie Martin
Rockville, Md.

Here is how I conserve water:

I ripped out the "water-saving" toilets that use 1 1/2 gallons per flush and installed old ones that use 5. Since the "water-saving" toilets need to be flushed 7 times to achieve a flush, water is saved.
-Bill Heinmiller
Jefferson, Md.

My story is pretty well summed up in my letter to Gov. Glendening sent earlier today.
August 7, 1999
Dear Governor Glendening:

It.s three o.clock in the morning here in Frederick, MD. My wife and I are discussing the future of our business and only source of employment, the Willowdale Car Wash, Inc. We shut down our operation as required by your recent executive order to conserve water. We have looked over our rather extensive folder of information on water conservation as provided to us by the International Car Wash Association. We see that other states faced with similar water shortages (California and New York as examples) banned all washing of cars at home, and encouraged the use of professional car washes. This is because the use of a professional car wash is the most efficient way to clean a car and conserve water. This is a fact that could be mentioned by you in a public forum and would help our industry as well as conserve water in the future. Our city.s chief operations officer, Mr. Rick Weldon, was quoted in The Gazette as suggesting that residents use commercial car washes to clean their cars because they are more efficient.

Some folks wonder if a car wash such as ours is really as efficient as we claim. Most of our customers wash their cars in about 6 minutes at our place. . .Total water used -- 10.2 gallons. No other operation is more efficient in the conservation of water -- not even a drive through or tunnel wash that recycles. Read that one more time -- not even a drive through or tunnel wash that recycles! Our total consumption of water is less than 4,000 gallons per day. We see that you exempted businesses that consume less than 10,000 gallons a day (except for car washes) and that you exempted the drive through and tunnel washes that recycle. . . You have said that we all need to pull together and you are quite correct. However, I think that my wife and I are tugging a little harder than the rest of the team.

Respectfully yours,
–Wade Manning, President,
Willowdale Car Wash, Inc.

Think of others, rather than yourself. You worry about watering your lawns when there are people dying everyday from lack of water. Wake up America, and look at the signs of time. God is real. Pray more, complain less and then see what happens.
–Avis C. Wilson
Beltsville, Maryland

I live in the Chihuahuan desert of southern New Mexico where the average annual precipitation is slightly over eight inches and the sun shines almost every day. After finishing this note, I shall go out onto the patio, drink a cup coffee, read the local newspaper and enjoy my back yard.

It's a back yard covered with flowing designs of vari-colored gravels and filled with lush vegetation; several kinds of trees and bushes, almost countless flowers that bloom from February through November and, of course, the almost obligatory sampler of desert plants such as cacti, ocotillos, Spanish Brooms, sages and yuccas.

And not a blade of grass to be seen! Lawns require --- and waste --- too much of that valuable resource, water!
–Jack Rebolais
Las Cruces, NM

I love how Americans are so willing to turn each other in, for the "good" of the state of course. Alot like Germany in the 30's and Russia until the 90's.
Washington, DC

Go to the POTOMAC POLO CLUB on Jersualem Road off Rt-109 in POOLESVILLE any morning around 6AM and watch then use their water cannon to water the field for their polo games. It's not hard to find as it is the only green grass around. Just the right stuff for the Volvo and Brie set. Went with my camera this morning and as soon as they saw me the skee-dalded to turn it off. You can see the plume from over the ridge on RT-109. Remember ---the rules only apply to some of us---not the polo set.
–Dennis Minor

Water restriction hot line flooded. I'm not an English Major, is that a pun?

With all the mentions of Snow this winter I should note - Bee's nests were built high this year (waist to shoulder and up), last year they built low (under 1 foot). "Bee" careful what you pray for...

Does grass have conditioned response to watering? Water daily and daily water is required... if you water weekly then the weekly restriction is no change.

Wash your car with a wet towel (leave the towel/sheet on your lawn/roof overnight to collect dew or before a rain).
-Kit Bennett
Kingstowne, Virginia

I'm thrilled that restrictions have been placed on water usage! I believe this should have been enacted over a month ago, but better late than never (I hope). My complaint is againt individuals who have (or had) the audacity to water their lawns when St. Mary's County, MD, has not seen measurable rain in many weeks - and that last rain was after a 6-week dry spell. I'm sure those are the individuals that are complaining first and foremost. I hope the restrictions are VERY strongly enforced.
-Caroline Braun
California, Md.

Coming from the west and a desert I have to say, I don't understand what the fuss is about. Not being able to wash your car or water your lawn is not a hardship. Having your water bill tripled one month because you used to much water is. Too much water being for everything you use, not just your lawn and car. Stop complaining and appreciate that you can still take showers, do your laundry, and drink as much water as you like.
-Nicole Hunt
Silver Spring, Md.

I cut grass for my dad once a week. And since last year I haven't made as much due to the drought. I have tried to water the grass once a day and now these restrictions are gonna leave me no choice but to limit watering the grass which will bring my profits down. The grass is turning a little bit green since our 2 hr. downpour in the Washington area on August 1. But until it rains again the grass will just have to grow back brown and will drive me out of business for the summer of '99.

I am a displaced Pittsburgher living here in the District of Columbia, and I think that the people here are heartless of selfish. All I've heard since the water restrictions were put into effect was how their lawns were going to go brown or that they were put out because they couldn't wash their cars. Well, let me tell you how it is in Western Pennsylvania. Unlike the people down here, our natural world comes first. In Pittsburgh, we rely on our three rivers for survival, and we cherish that water everyday. Most lawns in Pittsburgh are watered once a week, if that. Nobody seems to mind if it goes brown during a drought - they feel that saving their precious commodity is more important, which it is. The people here should realize that they are being selfish, there is more to life than a green lawn. When their water supply runs out completely, then they will realize what a gift it is to be able to have water every day when you turn on the tap. Maybe then they will feel some sort of remorse for not stepping up the conservation methods earlier.
-Shannon Morgan
Washington, D.C.

I do not understand why the governor of Maryland issued a state-wide restriction instead of concentrating on the areas with deep trouble. I am deeply concerned about Baltimore, which has, apparently, only a 35-day reserve. Yet I spend four days a week in Washington, which has no restritions, and live the rest of the week in Southern Maryland about 1,000 yards from the river - and about three feet above sea level. If my not drinking water in a DC restaurant, or my not watering my lawn in Southern Maryland, will help Baltimore, I'll be glad to do either. But the governor has not told me how they will help. He has addressed the issue as if the state is a unit; it isn't - the hills of western Maryland are far different from the Eastern Shore, or Baltimore, or Southern Maryland. Instead of issuing a state-wide edict, he should customise it and do it right. Then, and only then, we can all pitch in and help.

Maryland is a very odd state on all the maps, perhaps one of the oddest of all the 50 states. One size does not fit all. The governor does not appear to recognize the diversity of his own state...
-Mary Grace Kovar

I love how Americans are so willing to turn each other in, for the "good" of the state of course. Alot like Germany in the 30's and Russia until the 90's.
Washington, DC

I can fully respect the fact that we need to conserve water resources by complying with the restrictions. However, is absolutely ridiculous for the governor to restrict the use of private wells. Why? I live five minutes from the state capitol on the Chesapeake and we do not have municipal water. I feel like I live in a third world country. We had sewer lines brought in to our community (which was established at the beginning of this century) 10 years ago but no water! If there were no restrictions and my well ran dry whose problem would it be? Mr. Governor - I challenge you to bring the state capitol out of the third world by hooking us up to municipal sources. I will then be more than happy to comply.
-Thirsty in Annapolis
Yesterday, when I arrived home from work, I saw two young neighbor boys washing a car in their driveway. I looked at them, puzzled, and asked them if they knew it was a $1,000 fine to wash their car. The oldest nodded and said yes. I wasn't convinced that they were aware of the new mandatory restrictions, so I walked across the street to tell them. Their mom came out on the porch, and we talked a bit about Gov. Glendening's afternoon announcement of mandatory water restrictions. She was completely unaware of this news, and thanked me. She told her boys to turn the water off (they did rinse the soap off first) and they complied. Why was I unsure that my neighbors didn't know of these rules? They are non-English speaking, for the most part, and simply don't listen to, or read most typical sources of information. My little extra effort in explaining made me feel better, and may have helped them to become aware of the part they must play in our community's efforts in this water crisis.

The flip side of that was my experience today. I work in Bethesda, right at the heart of the city, near the Metro Station. There is a new building under construction at the Metro Center Complex, and it is nearing completion. I was outside in the early afternoon, watching the workers, when a construction worker standing nearby told me that the construction company (Clarke) was planning to release nearly 160,000 gallons of water as a test of the sprinkler system that very afternoon. In fact, the Montgomery County Fire Marshall was already there to supervise this activity. The red county fire department car was blocking the entrance to the Metro Kiss & Ride drive. I watched in disbelief as a torrent of water ran down the alley between my building and the new one. Gushing water ran for almost 30 minutes as bystanders gawked. If the average water usage is approximately 50 gallons of water per day, that 160,000 gallons would have been a days supply for 3,200 people. I have no way of knowing exactly how much water was released to run uselessly down into the gutter, but it hurt to watch.

I can understand if this test was scheduled and approved as part of the construction schedule well in advance of our current drought situation, but wonder if this test could have been rescheduled to a less sensitive date. No attempt was made to capture any of the released water. This may have been impossibly difficult. I can appreciate the necessity of testing a fire safety system in this new building. Would it have been too much of an effort, though, for the construction company to post signs informing all (and there are plenty of lunch hour watchers) that this was an unavoidable, and approved exception to the mandatory restrictions? I am being asked to restrict and conserve my water use, up to and including "flushing only when necessary." Did Clarke Construction really need to "flush" today, the first full day of our state-wide restrictions? I wonder how much voluntary compliance with these rules we will have from individual state residents when there is an appearance of non-compliance from business.

My husband works in Baltimore. He tells me that in the office complex where he works the lawn sprinkler system for the new US Census offices was on when he arrived at work yesterday, and today as well. Does the US Government get an exception for its facilities? The grass there is relatively new; does that qualify as "new plantings" under the exceptions? (I think I read somewhere that there is an exception for new plantings, but I could be mistaken.)

Most of the conservation I am being asked to do is common-sense and practical. I always run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine, mostly because I am too lazy to do these chores more often! I need a reminder now and then to turn the water off when I brush. I mulched all of my plantings heavily in early spring, and my tomatoes are doing okay. I can live with a dirty car. I can even "flush only when necessary" during the immediate crisis. I hope I'll even save a few dollars on my water bill, although no one has mentioned this as a side benefit. But, I don't want to feel lonely in these efforts, and certainly don't want to feel like the lion's share of the burden is on me, and my other neighbors. I would like an example to be set by business and government. That means Clarke Construction Company in Bethesda and the new, and as of yet, unoccupied, US Census offices in Baltimore, too.
Corinne Boyd
Laurel, MD

How is the drought affecting my life? I will be glad to tell you because it has had a tremendous impact. I live on a farm in Sharpsburg, MD and draw my water from a well on the property. Imagine, if you can, turning on the faucet to give the horses and cows fresh water and nothing comes out! Furthermore, imagine trying to take a shower and no water comes out of the shower head. I know to some people taking a shower is not critical, but, it is the fact that there is no water available for the shower!

Since June 1999, these are the precautions we have been taking to avoid running our well dry:

  • Doing laundry at a nearby laundry mat.
  • Eating on paper plates (my daughter objects to this because now we are putting trees in jeopardy by using paper products).
  • Doing dishes every other day, by hand.
  • Taking "Navy showers"-Rinse off, turn water off, soap up, turn water back on to rinse off.
  • Any water left in water glasses is poured into a container instead of down the drain. This water is used for my house plants.
  • Only newly planted trees (3) get a weekly hand watering.
  • No other outside plants get water. We have stopped hosing down the horses when they are hot and sweaty-instead we fill a bucket with some water and sponge them off for some relief from the heat.

    At this time these are the major things I can think of. But, since we have been conserving since June, it just becomes part of our daily lives. Unless you have lived with the fear (and it becomes that) of having NO water or water source, these thing may sound foolish. But, try just thinking about a dry faucet and wonder-What happens next?
    - Gail Pearson

    Drought Haiku

    Quiet summer morn
    No cars. Just the crunch, crunch, crunch
    As I cross my lawn

    My lawn is crispy.
    My dad tells me it's raining
    Where he is. Thanks, Dad.

    Thinking of snowballs
    Once the ice is gone. What then?
    Cups of flavored dust?

    - Anne Weber

    ..People who write that they won't begin to conserve until the governor, the president or the park service stop watering their lawns are the same people who will be complaining the loudest when the state governments declare a water emergency because reservoirs are empty. These are the kind of people who will sit back and let others do all the work and then be first in line to claim the rewards. Their arrogant selfishness and childlike petulance is astounding. Their behavior should serve as a reminder to all responsible people that the old adage is true; 'If you are not part of the solution you are a part of the problem!'
    -S. Zimmerman

    I never thought I'd do something like this, but my mom has forced me into plugging up the tub when I take a shower so that we can scoop up the water immediately after showering and put it into a bucket to use on the garden flowers. At first I thought it sounded really disgusting, I'm not sure why, but it's actually not that difficult and a large amount of water gets saved! Oh, and supposedly the rinsed-off soap is good for keeping away aphids.
    -Joyce Walker
    How can I put this plainly...Hmm...ok, here goes.

    The drought wasnt affecting me until these stupid restrictions were put on me.
    -Max Hoarty

    This may be selfish about needing to have my car clean, but I don't understand the mentality of Gov. Glendening when he globally says no car washing. While I shower, if I trap a gallon of waste water, I am allow to put it on my plants but I can't use that same water to just simply pour it on my car to get the dust off.....I know the plant is a living thing and it would be saving its life. But once the water has been declared as recycled, I should be able to do what ever I want to do with it... Can I not even soak a towel with the waste water and go dust my car with this damp towel? I wonder about his thinking. There should be exceptions to this water ban. Can I not even buy bottled water and pour it over my car? I bought the water. I can drink it, pour it on a plant, throw it away, or PUT IT ON MY CAR! Our Governor needs to reconsider the complete banishment of washing your car.

    People will wash their cars in their garages with the door closed. We just want to get the dirt off our cars using waste water and because he won't let us do that, we'll do it behind closed doors. If you say no completely, thats what make people mad. I'm all for the ban, but don't tell me if I recycle my shower water, I can't pour it over my car... that's absurd.
    -John Geckos

    As a surfer, windsurfer and kayaker I am always aware of water levels, quality and consumption. I cherish Marylands water resources. I know where my water comes from, exactly. I've been there.

    I have deep respect for what Gov. Glendening did. He made the tough unpopular choice while his contemporaries in D.C. and Va. play politics (give the public what they want even though its irresponsible).

    I respect water as a resource and never waste it. I turn off the facet when brushing. I never water my lawn. I don't wash my car. I don't care what people think. If it were up to me I'd have no lawn, just a wildflower meadow that survived as nature saw fit, but the homeowners association says I must have a lawn.

    My van has been washed 3 times in 5 years yet its intimately familiar with MD waters. It regularly is seen with sailboards, surfboards and kayaks piled on the roof heading for the river, bay or ocean. If more people in MD spent time in the water instead of spewing it on there Home Depot enhanced lawns, they'd understand where Glendening is coming from. Let's save the water in those reserviors for a real emergency which we may find next spring/summer.
    -Steve Sabia

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