My California friends might be surprised to learn how common it is back in Wisconsin to live with extreme water restrictions. Not in the big cities, but out in the sticks, or rather the North Woods. Up North is a beautiful place where the day starts with loon calls and ends with golden sunsets over the lake. And by “the lake” I mean any one of the 15,000 lakes. For all its charms, a lakefront paradise typically has an ugly blemish, the septic holding tank.
In basic terms, all the water that gets used in a house eventually makes its way to the tank before it gets pumped out on a regular basis. For good reason, no one likes to think about this much. And to minimize the cost of maintenance, and maximize space in the tank, measures are taken to limit water use. Showers are shorter. Laundry is only done when there is a full load.
Even flushing is at a premium. Some households put a brick in the toilet tank so less water fills for each flush. Lots of lake cottages feature framed jingles above the throne to remind users and shock guests with the house rules. Some favorites have always been, “In the land of fun and sun, we never flush for number one, ” and “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.”
Super Gross. I know. Frankly, it is possible Wisconsin has taken things a bit too far. Still, the message gets across pretty quickly that water is precious.
Now, my California community is under severe water restrictions due to this terrible drought. Not enough snow fell on the Sierra Nevada mountains last winter which means not enough water fed the central valley agriculture. Then, Mother Nature got stingy on rain too. Farms are too dry, reservoirs are too low, the wash near me looks like it has never been washed. Outside the reach of a sprinkler’s spray, everything is tinder. Fires threaten.
Everyone is suddenly conscious about watering the lawn and washing the car in the driveway. Even the Getty Villa has drained its famous pool and fountains. Drought resistant landscaping is being advertised. But for all the talk, most people don’t seem to have changed much in the way of water use besides setting the sprinklers down to three days per week from seven.
We need a downpour and we need more responsible water use. Perhaps California can take a page from Wisconsin on this one and be a bit more mindful of how water is used. Though I sincerely hope it never comes to regulated flushing!