Pledging action for the Year of Water
By Heather Gates and Jess Armantrout
Our current drought conditions and hot weather highlight the preciousness of our water resources. The persistent hot and dry conditions from June through mid-July have resulted in much of southern Wisconsin being upgraded this week from Moderate to Severe Drought Conditions.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office, “a severe drought will likely result in crop or pasture losses… Water shortages may become common, and water restrictions may be imposed.”
From June 1 through July 14, Madison was 6.19 inches below its normal precipitation. In that time, Madison received just 0.32 inches of rain. The NWS graph below shows the running total for Milwaukee and Madison since June 1 compared to their normal values, initialized to zero. (From: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=mkx&storyid=85310&source=0)
So, what is a person to do? Because it’s the Year of Water in Monona, proclaimed by Mayor Bob Miller as “a time for the community, city, groups, businesses, individuals, and others to learn about water and actively engage in taking positive steps to change how we use and manage water,” we have been asking individuals and groups to make a water pledge. Examples from groups: MG21 students planted a rain garden and St. Stephens Lutheran Church’s Green Team sold thirty rain barrels. Examples of individual conservation pledges—these from people attending the Lake Monona Water Walk Expo on July 7—follow:
- My name is Karina, and I pledge to continue to, for the rest of my life, conserve and reuse as much water as possible. Rain barrels, short showers… This week I am taking my kitchen sink apart to put a five-gallon bucket under it to catch all of my greywater, and I am going to start greywater filtration systems in the backyard.
- Hello, my name is Abigail, and I pledge to use my dehumidifier water to water my plants.
- I pledge to install a rain barrel.
- I am Kate Heiber-Cobb. I am the founder and coordinator of the Madison Area Permaculture Guild. I work with community water projects very often, and that includes rain gardens and swales and berms, the Embankment Project, the Lowell school… There are many of them, and I pledge to continue those throughout the coming year, this year and next year, and probably for the rest of my life, so thank you.
- I pledge to take shorter showers.
- My name is Lance Green. I pledge to reuse as much water as I can. I have been experimenting with finding new ways to use the water that I have already used once. That makes me very happy because then I know I am conserving. Thank you.
- I pledge to buy a low-environmental-impact washing machine.
- Hi, I am Kayla Baake with the Enact Program and Madison Environmental Group, and today I am pledging to make sure I use all my greywater in my house, so cat dishes are now going to water my plants, and fish water is going to water the plants, so that we reuse all the water that we can within our house.
- I, Mayor Bob, pledge to continue to keep water in the forefront of Monona even beyond 2012, which is the Year of Water. Every year should be the Year of Water, and I pledge to keep that going.
These are all great pledges. In addition to the inspiring ideas above, here are some that our members shared with us a few years ago that you might find useful:
- I empty half-full water glasses and the leftover teapot water into the houseplant watering can. I use leftover pasta cooking water for the compost bin.
- We take in our rain barrels with the lower portion still containing rain water and use it over the winter to water houseplants and seedlings.
- We have honed down our showers or complete bathing to every other or every three days.
- In the morning our bathroom water takes a long time to warm up so I use the water that is not yet warm to flush the toilet (we don’t flush at night) or to water the plants.
We recognize the power that making a formal pledge has on people, including ourselves. Declaring your pledge on paper or out loud formalizes plans that might have remained unformed and often puts others in a position to help you remember your commitment. If you want to formalize your pledge, we encourage you to write it down and share it out loud with others, or send it to us in an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll heartily cheer your commitment to this most precious resource, and are happy to bear witness to your pledge and the many more made in our community during this dry Year of Water.