The Rich and the Poor

Educating your customers about the value of your water resources is the key to your future.

The yard on the north side of my house has been a barren stretch of dirt for years. Every spring I loosen the soil and spread enough grass seed to start a sod farm. By mid-July any early promise of green has returned to dusty brown.

My yard seems most adept at producing moss. At this point, I’d be happy if it would fully take over. Nonetheless, I made another attempt to grow some grass this spring.

I scratched up the top layer of soil, being careful not to harm the sparse little islands of growth (mostly weeds) that dot the area. Then I spread a generous amount of seed, worked it into the soil and spread a little more. And then, I watered. I actually timed it pretty well leading into a week of rain, but I took no chances. I still watered every day.

A week later there were signs of life. A week after that, the bright green growth was encouraging. But there were patches of dirt that had clearly rejected the seed. So I repeated the whole process in those areas and kept up my strict watering regimen.

It’s been a month and a half now, and from a short distance away it looks like a lush carpet of fresh grass. When you stand in the middle of it, it looks more like a tattered scalp that just got hair plugs. But it’s getting thicker and I’m still watering.

If you’re still with me, you’re probably wondering why I’m going on and on about my lawn. The point isn’t that I’m turf-challenged; it’s more that I’m water-rich. I think about it every day when I’m turning on the sprinkler.

We run so many stories in this magazine about utilities that are working to conserve water and ensure their supply for the future. It’s incredibly important work, especially in areas of the West with growing populations and dwindling supplies. It’s a different story here.

I’m lucky enough to live on a beautiful lake in northern Wisconsin. The water level has been steadily climbing higher over the past several years. The neighbor, who’s been around a lot longer than me, says it’s the highest it’s been in at least 60 years. The water pressure from my well has even improved.

Still, as I stand in my lawn, I can’t help but think about how much water I’m using for a 20-by-50-foot stretch of grass. Even though it’s having no adverse impact, I feel a little guilty. I value the resource, but it’s just not at all scarce where I live. And for many, I think, even if they do live in an area where resources are limited, we’re so privileged to be able to turn on the faucet anytime we want and have clean, safe water flow out that it just isn’t valued as it should be.

That’s a battle you face, and education is your best weapon. Regardless of whether you’re rich or poor in resources, teaching your customers to value those resources and treat them with respect is the key to a sustainable future.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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