Editorial: Dangerously dry


Last week Gov. Mike Easley addressed the people of North Carolina on an impending crisis that could turn out to be, to borrow the words of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, “A major, major deal.”

We’re running out of water. And unless we get some decent rainfall soon – which forecasters say is fairly unlikely – things are going to get awfully dry around here.

In Greensboro, where 35 million gallons a day move through the pipes, we have about 140 days before the reservoirs run dry. Guilford County is one of 56 NC counties on the D-4 list: exceptional drought. Winston-Salem, which gets its water from the Yadkin River, is faring a little better, though its situation is classified as “extreme.”

There’s not much we can do about rainfall except dance. But there’s plenty we can do about consumption.

The city of Greensboro is on Level II water restrictions and launched a billboard campaign last week to let people know the new rules: Don’t wash your car, though commercial car washes may still operate; don’t water your lawn, though golf courses and playing fields are conditionally exempt; don’t hose down your sidewalk or your house; don’t fill the water features in your yard; don’t expect a glass of water in a restaurant unless you ask for it. Penalties range from a warning to a $1,000 fine.

Winston-Salem is on voluntary water restrictions for now.

But there is more we can do to conserve our most important natural resource.

Check your home for leaks by reading the water meter at two-hour intervals when no water is in use – if it registers a change, then you have a leak. Fix it. And fix your leaky faucets, too – it could save 2,700 gallons a year. You should also insulate your water pipes so that water is not wasted while waiting for it to get hot.

Fill your dishwasher and washing machine before operating it – fewer loads means less water consumption.

Don’t let the water run while you shave, brush your teeth or wash your face. And if you can stand it, try turning off the shower while you lather up. It’s very European!

And if you’re serious about conserving water – and if things go the way they should, the situation could get very serious, indeed – look no further than your toilet, which uses about 30 percent of the water you consume.

Put a brick in your toilet – in the back of your toilet – and less water will flow through for each flush. Check for leaks by putting a bit of food coloring in the tank; if it shows up in the bowl, you have a leak. Fix it. And while we’re not quite at the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” point, do not flush frivolously.

If we get down to 100-days’ supply, Stage III kicks in; that’s when they come after our swimming pools.

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