The doctor reports that you have diabetes, a marginal case.
Suitably alerted, you adopt a healthier diet. You start exercising. You drop a few pounds.
A few weeks later, you go back to the doctor. Everything is OK, he says.
Do you immediately go on a binge of fatty foods and slothful living? You shouldn't. Living healthier is a good idea in general, even when it isn't a reaction to a specific scare.
That analogy should be the guideline for everyone in Georgia as they respond to the news that the state no longer is in a drought. Rather than resetting the automatic sprinklers to "swamp," we should pay even closer attention to our water usage.
When it really comes down to it, just about everyone living in their own personal suburban oasis wastes water like a Vegas fountain. Actually, worse: Those showy fountains use recycled water, even if it does have to be replenished because of evaporation.
Just check out your own watering schedule (if you have automatic sprinklers, that is). Let's say you live at an even-numbered address, and your days to water are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
So you set your sprinkler so that on those three days, no matter what, the water sprays each zone for about 20 or 30 minutes.
You know what happens. After the first 10 minutes, much of the water is running off into the storm drain or ditch. The surface gets good and wet, encouraging roots to stay shallow. It gets hot. The surface evaporates first. Even with all that watering, everything still looks dried up.
All the agricultural folks tell us, repeatedly, that we're much better off using sprinklers to provide a long, gentle soaking less often. It forces the plants to send their roots deeper, so they then need less water and can withstand it better when we're more restricted on watering.
Now that most of the state's watering restrictions have been lifted, the worst thing we can do is binge on water. The plants won't be prepared for the next drought, and neither will we.
Personally, I'm getting oriented toward saving the water that falls from the sky by setting up rain barrels. Then I can water my garden any time I want - no matter what the government's drought declarations.
County water for all?
Speaking of water, the local tabloid featured an interesting story the other day about Pine Needle Drive near Harlem.
Those folks have had a tough time with their wells, with many of them contaminated from surface-water runoff. They also were victims of hucksterism when a critic of the city of Harlem falsely claimed the city had tainted their wells with sewage.
The residents would all benefit from having a county water line, but they don't like Water Utility Director Billy Clayton's suggestion that they pay for it to the tune of $3,500 per household.
I feel bad for them. But as a taxpayer, I also know the lot I live on cost more up front because the developer paid to run waterlines to it from a nearby county waterline. The cost of that waterline was built into the price for my lot when I bought it.
Conversely, the residents of rural areas pay far less for their property because it usually doesn't include county water, or sewer, or even pavement for their road.
So: Should taxpayers in the rest of the county who paid those costs upfront for their property also dip into their pockets to pay for those amenities for rural residents who paid less for their land that didn't have those things?
Clayton also reiterates the point that the county water system is self-supporting. It's an "enterprise fund," meaning that its own customers pay for its operation - not county taxpayers. If you aren't a water customer, you aren't paying a dime for the system.
Incidentally, if you aren't a water customer, you can ignore those odd-even watering restrictions, too. But it still wouldn't be a bad idea to set up a rain barrel or two.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail barry.paschal@newstimes online.com.
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