A Cup a Quarter

When I trained for my first century ride (100 miles on a bicycle in one day), I was told to drink one cup of water every quarter hour — eight ounces every fifteen minutes — to replenish my precious bodily fluids. Water is precious and is being taken for granted by millions of people in this world; people for whom a cup a quarter of fresh drinkable water is easy to come by. But for others, the lack of fresh water defines much of their existence.

There is a bill pending before the Baltimore City Council that will create a sewer service charge exception for residents who have irrigation systems installed in their property to water their lawns. The rationale is that water used for the lawn never goes into the sewer system and therefore people who water their lawns should not be charged the sewer service charge. Apparently, there is a similar law already in place for commercial users. My feelings are that this bill should not pass. Here are my reasons:

  • Lawns should not be encouraged — water should not be wasted on something as useless as a thirsty lawn.
  • In the City, water from irrigation systems and sprinklers routinely runs down the sidewalk and into the sewer system, so the rationale is flawed. There is no guidance in the law to distinguish between efficient drip irrigation systems and sprinklers that sprout out of the ground at 5 a.m.
  • The bill smacks of elitism — only rich people install irrigation systems for their lawns and can afford to install the separate meter required by the new law. It fails to take into account those of us who painstakingly water our gardens by hand.
  • Baltimore is having budget problems — City recreation centers and pools are at risk of being closed this summer for lack of operating funds, so eliminating this source of revenue makes no sense.

I believe I will testify against the bill at the upcoming hearing. I would appreciate any thoughts you would care to offer.

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2 thoughts on “A Cup a Quarter

  1. I hadn’t heard of this before, but I am interested to learn more. I’m pretty sure it is worth fighting against. Can you email me?

  2. The Chesapeake Bay Association would know what the side effects of all this lawn grooming has on our bay. Clean Water Action is a great national group. This exemption does sound like we would be subsidizing these extensive and inappropriate irrigation practices. Good luck at the meeting.

    Some facts from the website, plantnative.org:

    4. Water – It is staggering to learn that 60% of water consumed on the West Coast, and 30% on the East Coast, goes to watering lawns. U.S. News and World Report states that a 1000 sq. ft. lawn (for example, 20′ x 50′) requires 10,000 gallons of water per summer to maintain a “green” look. In the west, whole rivers are bleed dry for watering. In communities across the U.S., irrigation is mandated in building codes, further perpetuating this wasteful practice.

    What is the cost? What is the morality? In the Pacific Northwest, water diversion is considered one of the major causes for the dramatic decline and near extinction of salmon. Across the country, the “salmon” story is being repeated, though with other species. In addition, as we continue our wasteful practices with water, taking it out of streams and rivers and returning it with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, we diminish water quality everywhere – creating a shortage of good quality water. Communities that have not secured a water source “high up” in local mountains, often have little recourse but to drink water of lesser quality.

    As to the financial cost of wasteful water practices, this is reflected in ever increasing water bills and property taxes (through which facilities improvements are paid).

    Naturescapes do not require permanent irrigation and hence to not contribute to wasteful and costly water practices of the past.

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