I testified against Bill 10-0504 yesterday before the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee of the Baltimore City Council. I raised all the points I made in my March 7th post on the issue. Plus I added the statistics given to me by one of the folks who commented. I was the only person at the hearing to oppose the bill. I spoke first and I said, among other things, that it is irresponsible and selfish for water rich Baltimore City to encourage the wasteful use of water by passing a bill that allows residents to be exempt from sewer charges if they have a separately metered irrigation system to water their lawn.
Four citizens of Baltimore spoke in favor of the bill. One individual pointed out that his house was adjacent to an empty lot and he felt he had the responsibility to maintain that lot with an irrigated lawn. He did not want it to look like a weed infested mud pit. Admirable goal. It was unclear to me whether he owned the adjacent lot or if he was acting as a good samaritan. Regardless, the answer is the same — learn to reduce, replace or grow a more natural lawn. Attend Susan Harris’s lawn reform talk next Saturday, March 19th at Behnke’s Nursey in Beltsville, MD at 11 a.m.
Another individual, one who claimed to be the motivating constituent behind the bill, described his environmentally responsible lawn irrigation system. It measures the amount of moisture in the ground at various depths and is an efficient drip system that waters only when needed and as much as needed to keep the lawn alive (not golf course green) so his young children are not playing in a mud pit. He did his research and has already installed an appropriate system. He came to the conclusion, though, that even if the bill were to pass, he would not take advantage of it because the cost of installing the plumbing necessary to qualify for the exception to sewer charges was over $1,000 and he would only be saving about $100 or so per year. He also agreed that the bill could be amended so that only efficient irrigation systems would qualify, not the ones that water in the rain. I know you’ve seen them.
The council members who attended the hearing were thoughtful, interested, respectful and polite. They asked meaningful questions of those who testified and of the agency representatives who had prepared reports on the bill. At the conclusion of the hearing, the sponsor of the Bill summarized the issues raised: (1) if the exception exists for commercial interests, should it exist for residents; and (2) what is the responsibility of the City with respect to the environmental concern for the use of water on lawns.
The chair of the committee, James Kraft, posed the question: “If the Orioles can irrigate the field at Camden Yards and be exempt from the sewer charge, why can’t everyone be allowed to do it?” That one was a stumper for a sports fan like this GardenSprite. But I think the answer is: not everyone plays baseball on their lawns.
The committee decided not to vote yesterday. They say they want a few more facts from the Department of Public Works. They are going to vote some other time. So, they patted me on my head and sent me on my way.