It’s July and the rains are here. And I’ve been thinking about water: how vital it is to human existence, how much we love it, how little we value it, how resistant we are to reducing our use of it. I guess in the back of my mind, where I hide all the beliefs I don’t want to examine too closely, there is this idea that it is endless. This is Florida after all. We are sitting on the Floridian aquifer, are we not? Other people may run out, but not us. We are safe. If this is where you are and you don’t want to go anyplace else, stop reading now.
It could be because I am an Aquarian, you know, the water bearer, or because I grew up in Florida, or because I really LOVE to grow things, but the idea of limiting my usage of water is deeply disturbing to me. You’d think I’d be worried about staying alive, having enough to drink, but no, I’m worried about how to garden without water. I guess I figure we will have enough to drink but maybe not enough to water the flowers.
You may think I am overreacting, but you haven’t read Cynthia Barnett’s book Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis. Cynthia is from Florida and she knows a lot about water. She says we need a water ethic, a way of thinking about water that makes us understand just how important it is. We have always had plenty of water in America, and when you have lots of something, you come to take it for granted.
I hate change; I really do. But I have become convinced that although we do have a lot of water here in north Florida, it is still possible to run out and it will happen if we stay on the path we are on. The question has become, how do we do this? And not, why do we have to? I urge you to read up on it yourself. I think you too will become convinced, if you are not already.
I’m sure everyone has their own ideas of how to solve this problem. I believe different things will work for different individuals and communities. Some say if we have to pay a lot for water, we will put a higher value on it and conserve more. That kind of reasoning really bothers me. First of all, it implies people are stupid and can’t be reasoned with. Second, water would become linked with money – the more money you have, the more water you can buy. It seems to me the water belongs to us all, equally, and that we all have an equal stake in preserving it. We all want our children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities to swim and loll and splash about in the beautiful blue stuff.
I have a challenge for you. Find out what your average daily water consumption (in gallons) is. You can do this by checking your utility bill. Set a goal for reducing it and seek out ways to do this. Talk to your neighbors and find out if you use more than they do. Have friendly competitions to see who can reduce the most. Exchange ideas on ways to conserve. I know this is serious, but can’t we find ways to do it together and make it fun?
Pam Sawyer is a Master Gardener with Leon County/UF IFAS Extension. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov