Annie Calovich

What will gardeners do with proposed water restrictions, fines?

Do you know how you’ll react if the City Council approves a proposed $1,000 fine for people who use more than 310 percent of their average winter water usage?

The council will take up the proposal at its meeting June 4. The proposal’s goal is to cut in half the city’s outdoor irrigation use during the summer.

Not that it’s an exact carryover to our individual yards, but can you get by on half the water you usually use on your yard?

We need to be asking such questions of ourselves and about our community ahead of the council’s decision.

The Wichita area needs to conserve water, no doubt. Good gardening practices – mainly spending more time assessing what our lawns and gardens actually need rather than putting the sprinkler on automatic – can go far in reducing the water we use. We can and should do those things whether or not the council approves this proposal. Has conservation really been tried yet?

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I might be OK with the water-limit proposal if we could tell when we were getting near the 310 percent limit. But we wouldn’t be able to. Here would be your sign: You would get notice that you’d gone over, and there would be a grace period of the first month that you did so. Then a $1,000 fine would kick in every month afterward that you went over the limit.

Almost as a corollary to those people who waste lots of water, letting it run down the curb all day long, there is the possibility that some people, afraid of incurring a fine, would stop watering altogether. What could such a fine mean for the quality of life in Wichita? For big home vegetable gardens? For people who’ve invested lots of money and sweat in a beautiful landscape that others enjoy? For people who just like to make their own bit of earth pretty, to enjoy the serenity of mind and relief of stress that stepping out the back door can bring? For people who like to fill a pool for their kids or let them run through the sprinkler?

We don’t have mountains. We don’t have an ocean. We do have big blue skies ( too blue during a drought) and whatever beauty we can bring to our private and public landscapes to lift our hearts. To me, that includes the WaterWalk Waltzing Waters fountains. It’s bad enough to have a drought. Can we not have one place where everyone can go to enjoy the sight of water? Especially when millions have already been spent on fountains, and especially when they’re downtown, where something cool is needed?

For now, the fountains have been turned off.

I’m hoping and praying for continued rain that so far this growing season has not caused me to drag a hose once. But of course we have to plan for the alternative. And in that case: Can you get by using half the water you usually use in the summer? Can Wichita?

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