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Go Green Yourself: Green Fatigue & the Myth of Water Conservation in the Desert

Posted May 07 2008 3:37pm
I don't usually read the Phoenix New Times, but last month this cover caught my eye, and I knew I'd be blogging about it. Not because it pissed me off, but because I sympathized. I'm the greenest person I know, with two "green" blogs and a "green" website and all the "green" advice my family and friends could ever want (or not want) to know.

Frankly, sometimes I get sick of myself.

But the series of articles in this paper's "Green Fatigue" feature was about more than green-overload. It was about discrediting the Green Movement itself, at least here in Phoenix:

"This week, we made the ultimate sacrifice: Our writers put on their thinking caps, got out their calculators, and told the true stories about what it really means to be green in this corner of the desert....

"The most inconvient truth of all, it turns out, is this: the Green Movement might make you feel warm and fuzzy, but it won't stop global warming."

Of course, I was skeptical that there would be anything within its pages to convince me of such a bold statment. And I was almost right.

As I learned in "Waterlogged" by Megan Irwin, as much water as I try to conserve here in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, it makes no difference except to my pocketbook.

"Because of the way water rights work, we can't share our water," writes Irwin. "We can use it, or it can sit there until it evaporates."

Problem is, we're not using it fast enough. That's right. I said it. And the leftover water is literally going to waste:

"We had to let water go down the drain this past winter. The system that supplies water to the Valley, run by the Salt River Project [SRP], was actually too full. Throughout the first three months of 2008, SRP released enough water from its reservoir system to supply a Phoenix household for a year."

If only I could have been there with my buckets. But wait -- I don't have to conserve anymore, do I? Old habits do die hard.

What really sucks is that if we were allowed to share our water, other parts of Arizona could have really used it, Strawberry, Pine and Payson among them.

None of this sits well with any of us, which is why the Arizona Department of Revenue and SRP are investing in "water banking." Instead of dumping excess water with nowhere to go, we'd pump it into underground aquifers instead, essentially storing it until we need it.

As I said, old habits die hard. I can't explain the psychology, but since reading this article, I've actually started conserving water even more.

It takes forever for my water to get hot in the bathroom. So I've started sticking a pitcher under the sink and a bucket in the bathtub to catch what would otherwise go down the drain. As it turns it out, my water takes 2.5 gallons to get hot!

I do dump the water, but onto my outdoor plants -- plants that otherwise wouldn't get watered much at all. My water usage is the same. My bill is the same. But at least here in the desert, I have lush, green plants.

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