The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by English poet Samuel Coleridge in 1798 relates the experiences of a sailor who returns home from a long voyage. Full of torment and frustration, the mariner surmises the world around him. We Oklahomans can truly relate to the true despair in his poem.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
Our need for water is ever present with lakes at alarmingly low levels. A friend’s recent picture on Instagram showed Lake Thunderbird, near Norman, at levels that I’ve never seen before. While four-fifths of the Earth’s surface may be covered in water, the amount of drops to drink is becoming less and less. Oklahoma is going through a major drought that can have profound effects on our food supply, economy, ecology and local governments.
Just this month, officials with the Mississippi Valley Division of the Army Corps of Engineers debated halting traffic on America’s largest river highway. But, thanks to modern technology, the corps has reported that it was able to blast away two feet of the bottom of the channel to help increase the river’s flow. Ironically, technology that was developed generations ago to help stop the Mississippi River from flooding is being used to help keep it flowing. Crews have been working around the clock, constantly checking the river’s level to keep a critical part of America’s infrastructure flowing.
Two of our major cities, Oklahoma City and Norman, have begun implementing water rationing. You can see the ground floor of Lake Hefner where water used to flow and boats dock. Across our state, water levels are sinking, pun intended, to an all-time low. What can we do to help alleviate this growing problem?
There are a lot of helpful websites that offer ideas. A water footprint calculator is available online through National Geographic.
Here are just a few ideas from www.wateruseitwisely.com.
- When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.
- Some refrigerators, air conditioners and ice makers are cooled with wasted flows of water. Consider upgrading with air-cooled appliances for significant water savings.
- Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street.
- Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
- Choose shrubs and ground covers instead of turf for hard-to-water areas such as steep slopes and isolated strips.
- Install covers on pools and spas and check for leaks around your pumps.
- Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Compost vegetable food waste instead and save gallons every time.
- Plant in the fall when conditions are cooler and rainfall is more plentiful.
- For cold water, place a pitcher full in the refrigerator so that when you need it you can consume every drop rather than running the tap until the cold water begins. This way, every drop goes down you and not the drain.
Try a few of these simple ideas and do one person’s part in this growing dilemma, in hopes that someday soon, we might enjoy a world with water, water, everywhere.