Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rain at the End of the Downspout

After many months of being in an exceptional drought condition, the county of the state I live in made it to extreme drought which is better. As of April 1, 2008 we were still listed at extreme on the US drought monitor but I think having rain every day for 6 days after that may put us into the severe category. It's odd to be excited about making it to extreme and thrilled if we make it to severe. Not so long ago, severe drought sounded bad. However, after over a half a year (I think I have that right) in the exceptional category, it's all relative.
It's certainly sobering to open the newspaper day after day and read how many days worth of water are left, if there wasn't any rain, and to go week after week with no rain. Until this week we were on Stage 2 restrictions which included no city water being used to water outside, no car washing at home, no new or drained pools could be filled. The recent rain has been sufficient to switch us back to stage 1 restrictions which means we can water outside once a week (staggered by address), cars can be washed at home on certain days, and I assume pools can be filled since that's not listed on the stage 1 list.
Perhaps my biggest concern has been over the birds. For some time, long before the restrictions, I have only watered outside with water collected under the gutters into barrels I have strategically located. I also have large and small open containers which get replenished with rain and serve as bird baths. The concern I had with the tightest restrictions was what to do if we got no rain and the wild birds had no water. I realize they could go to lakes and ponds that have some water. However, so many birds nest in my bushes, and nesting boxes, and do depend on water nearby which I have made available to them all these years. Fortunately, recent rains and changes in restrictions, for now, should take care of the birds.I am glad that my city is putting permanent conservation measures into place so that even if the drought conditions improve, it won't go back to business as usual. One of the nifty tools that my city has online is a water consumption calculator. You can use the calculator to figure out how much water your household consumes. That was an eye opener for me. I am trying to be frugal with water. I've started collecting water I run while it's getting warm for a shower, or even when washing my hands. That makes me realize how much I've wasted in the past when I see how much I can collect.
In the past we have frequently had a month or so in the summer where people could only water every other day but it's always gone back to the restrictions being lifted. This was the first time we had to have increasingly stringent restrictions on through the winter. I am glad that the city realizes that even as we start to pull out of the worse part of the drought, for now, that it will be necessary to implement permanent restrictions. Common sense never seems to be enough.
I took the photograph of the dried up creek bed several days ago after we had rain six days in a row. The fact that there is no water to speak of in the creek, even after the most rain we've had in probably 8 months said something to me. However, the moss looks happy and the periwinkle healthy so there are some signs of the good the rain is doing. All of the photographs in this post were taken from my yard except for the one of the dried up creek which is off one of the trails I walk on near my house. Speaking of walking. I am on day 33 of my latest effort to walk regularly. I have walked 26 days out of the past 33 days, and I got alternate exercise on 2 more. Therefore, I've had some kind of exercise for 28 of the past 33 days. Can you tell I'm pleased? Well, I am.


Dee said...

Congratulations, Carver, on walking or exercising 28 out of the last 33 days. Very good!

Also, how do you collect the water you run before your shower or while washing your hands? I hadn't thought to do it before - I assume you put it in a bucket or dish - well, I guess that's obvious! Then, what do you do with the collected water?

I just bought an Energy Star washer - it's a front loader that uses about 1/2 the water of a regular washer. I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not it makes a difference in my water bill.

Cool photos as usual!

Smalltown RN said...

Congratulations....that is awesome and yes you should be very proud of yourself.....I love your photos....and how wonderful for you to be thinking of the birds....being the amateur birder that I am I find myself making sure there is always feed for the birds...lots of water here....and now that the humming birds are back the feeders are out....
I have an award for you....please go and check it out...

escape said...

Good habit of walking. Now you are inspiring us with that 28days.

I like the dried creek shot.

Carver said...

Thanks Dee, I put a big cook pot in my shower and put a top on it and push it to the back of the shower. Then I have a smaller container I use to scoop water out of that to pour in the part of the toilet that fills up and that saves on the water from flushing. I also use the water from washing my hands for flushing. Working from home, let me say that I flush my toilet a lot, ha. Take care, Carver

Thanks Mary Anne (smalltown RN), The hummingbirds are great. I get a lot of them on my lantana in the summer.

Carver said...

Thanks The Dong, I appreciate that.

SabineM said...

I love the first photo! Very cool!
And congrats on your exercise plan!
OH wow that calculator WAS an eye opener!

Anonymous said...

My Mom STILL uses an old wringer, washing machine, using it for towels and sheets. The soap water is not very dirty as she removes the towels and "wrings" them...imagine anyone still doing that? She then reuses that water in the machine to wash throw rugs. She's been doing this to our amazement for years. And now it all makes sense, doesn't it?

So do the rain water barrels at the end of the gutter spouts my grandfather hooked up. All summer we would fill watering cans taking them to the gardens from the rain barrels. Waste not, want not.

Your assessments of wasted water and those habits of my Mom and grandfather....all make perfect sense to me! I hope there are more of the likes of all of you out there, conserving water.


jmb said...

When we go visit our relatives in Australia it is brought home to us how to live in drought conditions. My brother in law lives off rainwater caught on his roof and siphoned into tanks. One for the house, one for the stable for the horses. Sometimes they don't get rain for 18 months and they have to buy water for the tanks.

They use the water from their septic tank (it's a special biocycle one which totally cleans the water) on their garden. Efficient use of water is constantly on their minds.

MaR said...

Congratulations on your continued exercising, good for you!!
I can relate to you, as you know already. We are getting a few drops of rain today but nothing to get excited about. The house came with a rain water tank but it is almost empty...We are very concious as not to waste our water.
Have a lovely day, Carver!

Michele said...

Wow, you are doing well on your walking. You are an inspiration to many that have and will come by to read this. Congratulations.
Your photos are stunning.

Carver said...

Thanks Sabine, I was surprised myself when I started calculating with the conservation calculator.

Hi CarolA, Your mom is miles beyond what I do. That is amazing and great that your parents have that kind of commitment to water conservation.

Hi JMB, I can't imagine what it must be like to live in a place that can go 18 months without rain although it felt like we were going to find out. I think the city planners here would do well to look to places like Australia for ideas. From what I've read, the current trends here are expected to continue and droughts will be more and more common. Long term planning is going to be needed.

Hi Mar, I hope you will get some good soaking rain soon. I was thinking about you and how you were also experiencing a bad drought.

Thanks Michele, I appreciate that so much. I hope that you are continuing to feel better and better.

Anonymous said...

Hey Carv,
The drought conditions are so very eye opening. Geez. I am so guilty of not really worrying about water consumption in the past...brushing teeth, washing dishes, long showers. Just never thought of that as luxury. And to so many parts of the world it is exactly that.
So it is good that you are getting rain. And that the severity of the drought is lessening. I think the beautiful white bloom with the raindrops illustrates this so well. And to think, in spite of the dire water circumstances, they all come back in Spring and show off for you!
Must be because you are kind to Birds.
Good work, My Friend.
Love, K.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is humble, and precious, and pure.
-Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Sun

ev said...

dunno how i came to be here dropping a line in your comment box...but really, i like your blog esp. the photos, hope you will allow me to link you up.

Carver said...

Hey Kim, I mean guess who, looks like I guessed. Believe me I have been guilty of wasting water without thinking about it and still could do a lot more than I do. Great quote from St. Francis.

Hey Ev, Thanks for visiting and feel free to link me.

Dee said...

Okay, Carver, you've started some potty humor here!

I think it's the federal government that now requires all toilets sold in the U.S. to be low-flow toilets. I have heard that some Americans will drive to Canada to get their superpower flush toilets. One or two of my friends are dismayed because they don't feel the low-flow gets the job done, so to speak.

When my science and community crew worked on King Island, a very remote place, our logistics crew put in some porta potties, but apparently it was the kind that you have to use with a certain chemical - that quickly converts the waste into solid blocks which then are biodegradable. But they were also vacuum-powered, too, and the joke told by the crew was that they were afraid they'd get flushed away, too!

When I was a grad student in Fairbanks, a lot of students in my cohort lived in cabins outside of town. Many of these cabins had electricity but no running water, so they used outhouses that were placed a little ways away from the house. I remember walking in below-zero weather to an outhouse during a dinner party. The joke there was that it was better to have a styrofoam toilet seat because it didn't freeze and it didn't feel cold when you sat on it! I remember a funny story when grad student told - her outhouse was fancy because it had two holes cut into the bench to sit on. She said that she had to switch the seat from one hole to another because the waste had frozen into a tower so tall that it was almost up to the level of the hole! Imagine that - a frozen tower of waste in an outhouse!

You shouldn't have gotten me started!

Carver said...

Too funny Dee. I have used a few outhouses in my youth but fortunately none with a frozen tower of waste. EWWWWW.

As to indoor plumbing, I agree that the energy efficient toilets don't always get the job done. In addition to adding water I collect into the back part (tank) that fills up, to conserve, I also waste some with the waste. By that I mean that if I use a lot of toilet paper I sometimes add water into the potty bowl itself. That helps.

Since I remodeled my bathroom and use new toilets, I've had to have a plumber come to deal with clogs several times but since I started adding some of my shower water into the bowl, I haven't needed a plumber. The problem with adding water into the bowl is that doesn't help conserve water like adding it into the tank as it fills up does. But it helps conserve 75 bucks which is the plumber's charge for clogs.

Cheers, Carver

Dee said...

That reminds me of another story. A lot of people in my community have cabins on King Island land on the southwest Seward Peninsula. it's about 40+ miles from Nome, with no running water or electricity. Several have been gas-powered generators so that they can watch movies on their VCR or DVD players there. My uncle even rigged up a tank to catch rainwater which then runs to a spigot inside the cabin.

Anyway, about 18 months ago, there was a strong fall storm that caused a storm surge (bigger and bigger waves) to come ashore. It carried away my cousin's outhouse!! They had to go by 4-wheeler about a mile inland to fetch the outhouse - the building itself was still intact. Imagine that! Someone might ask, "hey how was your day?" "Well, I had to tow my outhouse today!"

Which reminds me of my colleague's story. Loren has an archaeology field school occasionally on the Salmon River in Idaho. A couple of years ago, they had to tow their outhouses to town and get them serviced, but the road from their camp to town involved a long, steep uphill climb. They got to the top of the hill and realized that one of them fell off the trailer, so he sent his students back down the road to find it. Luckily, it was one that hadn't been used, because it had rolled some on its side!

See, you shouldn't have got me started!

Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba) said...

We're in a drought, too. Where are you?

But those photos are beautiful!

Carver said...

Hi Dee, Your outhouse stories have me laughing my head off. Maybe I'm perverse but the idea loose outhouses being towed and then the one falling off the trailer totally cracks me up. I'm sure if I was the one dealing with it I might be more aggravated than amused.

Thanks Rebecca, I'm in NC. I'm sorry you're dealing with a drought too.

Dee said...

Carver, I'm glad you enjoy the outhouse stories! They are too funny. I'd forgotten that I knew them, but once I got started, they all came back! My colleague was, I think, a bit aggravated, but that's why one has students, right? LOL I got to admit to laughing myself as I typed up the story. Yep, we're perverted. Or, maybe that inner child still appreciates potty jokes!

Heart of Rachel said...

Lovely photos. I admire your concern for the wild birds and I'm glad that you can help them during this hot season.

It's been terribly hot here lately with summer at its peak.

Keep up the wonderful exercise routine.

Carver said...

Thanks Rachel, I hope you will get a break from the heat. Good to see you had a wonderful vacation.

Carver said...

Hi Dee, I think my inner child is often out there in the open, ha.