Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hell on Earth? No, It's Just Texas Weather

Here in Texas, we are in a drought of Biblical proportions. Most of the state is in a "D4" stage of drought which is labeled "exceptional". Yeah, it's hot and dry.

(For anyone living in the deserts of the western United States, just stop reading now. I'm going to whine a lot about our heat and triple digit temperatures. You live with that every summer. We're not used to it. So please, pat my head and let me get it out. Then we can have a popsicle together.)

I hadn't realized how how much I take running water for granted until I really had to starting thinking about it. In the United States, if we want water, we turn on the tap. It's pretty much that simple. Yes, there can be a drought, but really (we think), our water is not going to run out. I can just turn on the tap and get a drink whenever I want. Okay, I'll cut down my shower by three or four minutes. Maybe I'll think twice about that bubble bath. But really, we're not going to run out of water.

Wrong.

There are towns in Texas that have their reservoir going dry. You may have read about Big Spring, where the big spring is drying up. They are resorting to some extreme measures there. Some towns are turning off the water periodically. Austin closed some city pools early this summer.

We got word this week that we are going to Stage 2 water restrictions next week. Stage 2 includes:
  • Watering allowed 1 day per week for all City Water customers
  • Hand-watering allowed anytime
  • No automatic-irrigation after 10 a.m. on designated watering day
  • Vehicle washing on designated day before 10 a.m.
  • No charity carwashes
  • No automatic fill valves for pools or ponds
  • No outdoor fountains except to provide aeration for aquatic life
  • No water to be served at restaurants unless requested
  • No washing of sidewalks, driveways, parking areas or other paved areas
Sounds serious, folks.

I've been struck by the way the conditions have been permeating my everyday life. If you step outside, it is quite literally like stepping into a blast furnace. So the heat keeps us indoors. (Hubby - who's from Michigan - tells his relatives that our "winter" is August and September. We just don't go outside.) If the kids get bored and restless, I can't send them outside to play. They can't go ride their bikes because they might get heat stroke two blocks away. It's THAT hot. So we stay in and try to find ways to amuse and entertain ourselves that don't constantly involve electronics or screens. That's kind of hard after almost 70 days of triple digit temps.

There seems to be an undercurrent of anxiety and worry. Most of it is the economy, yes, but I can't help but think that the knowledge of a water shortage is always lingering in the back of most people's minds. Of course, it's all we can talk about. "Can you believe how much your water bill is?" "How are you cutting back?" "I haven't washed my hair in three days!" "Have you seen my lawn?" And the worst, we keep reminding the kids "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down" for bathroom breaks. (That's the first restriction I'm leaving behind when this thing is over! Ick!)

Visually, you can't escape it at all. All of my plants on the back porch are dead. Our backyard has a brown, crispy swath cut out of it in the middle - the ribbon that is in full sun all day long. I refer to as the Yellow Brick Road. You can tell which homeowners have been heeding the current water restrictions. There are many lawns that are just completely baked - no green whatsoever. There are also lawns that are full and lush. (I hate to be mean, but I really hope that those people are fined. It's not just the bratty side of myself saying, "If I can't do it, I don't want you to!" It's now gotten to the point that I see those lawns and I feel like they are completely wasting water that we might need for sustenance in a few months. I get angry when I see those lawns. I feel that those homeowners are flipping us off. Maybe that's just me.)

The thing that I am most sad about is my garden. I really enjoyed harvesting the veggies from my own patch of earth. I LOVED the cherry tomatoes and the cucumbers. The okra were fun to give away (I discovered I'm not a huge okra fan). The peppers and eggplant were slow to grow, but worth it. And I have harvested and dried MUCH basil and sage. I love gardening. LOVE it. But I'm afraid that I'm going to have to give it up until this drought is over. I do have the ability to go out and hand water the patch (which I did the other night), but the city has really jacked up the price of water this summer, so it's costing a lot to keep the garden going. I'm not sure at this point that the return is worth it - and that's adding in the enjoyment factor.

So yes, it's been a hot, dry mess of a summer. The heat is oppressive and the drought is scary. We will come out of this okay, I know. And we'll be better for it. I'm learning so much about what I need and what I can do without. I NEED to wash clothes. I can do without the extra rinse cycle. Along those lines.

I will now close this post and go out and do a rain dance. And I promise that I will never sing "Rain, rain, go away" ever again!





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