Slice of Life

In for the long (water) haul

ktanner@thetribunenews.comNovember 28, 2013 

Note: There's folly involved with writing a column about the weather a few days before it's published. But remember, I'm the same fool who washed her car the day before a predicted storm. So it's all my fault anyway.

It’s tough to get a bunch of Cambrians (or any other group anywhere, I suspect) to agree on something, anything. But I’ll bet 99.99 percent of the town’s tank-filling, shower-saving, bucket-toting, hyper-water-conserving population will agree they’re very thankful for the recent rainstorm.

No, the third of an inch we got at our house wasn’t much moisture and, under the soggy surface, the ground’s still pretty dry. But every little bit helps, and rain that arrives without wind is a special blessing, especially in Cambria’s forest of shallow-rooted pines.

In our dreams, we’ll get enough gradual moisture this winter to refill our aquifers and reservoirs, revive our parched plants and habitats and sustain our souls with the gentle sound of rain pitter-patting on our roofs and through the trees.

But what if we don’t?

Water-thrifty Cambrians have gone through droughts before. We’ve been rationed to 50 gallons of water a day for the first person in a house, 25 gallons a day each for anybody else in the same abode.

That’s not much.

According to the California Urban Water Conservation Council (www.h2ouse.org), an average bath uses 24 gallons of water, the average shower 2.2 gallons per minute (with an average total of 17.2 gallons, or almost 8 minutes) and toilets in water-conserving homes 1.5 gallons per flush.

The Cambria Community Services District ban on using tap water on outdoor landscaping in October helped cut the district’s water production by more than 11 acre feet, compared to statistics for October 2012.

That’s 3.6 million gallons — just try hauling all that in buckets from your shower to your yard!

Yes, the bucket brigade is great arm exercise (forget about lifting dumbbells!), but it also can be dangerous. Nearly a third of Cambria residents are 65 or more years old and many of our older citizens aren’t accustomed to toting heavy containers with contents that slosh.

There also are hazards in going to the well, so to speak, even though technically the San Simeon Creek Road “well” where Cambrians have received free nonpotable water for years is closed. A sign there says the system is being upgraded. District General Manager Jerry Gruber said he wants to make sure those wells and the water they produce are safe and properly used.

Also, the big, black, in-town water-source tank at Cambria Nursery has been removed for the holidays. That leaves a similar tank near the skate park as the only free, fill-it-yourself source for nonpotable irrigation water.

Wherever you get the liquid, it needs to get from there to your garden, which frequently happens now in a big water tank in the back of someone’s car or truck.

You thought carrying 20 pounds of water in a bucket is tricky? Try driving on Cambria’s hilly roads with hundreds of pounds of water making waves behind you.

If that tank isn’t firmly tied down, wedged in and secured, trust me, it’s going to go wherever it wants to go.

I understand some drivers inexperienced in hauling such loads have had harrowing experiences trying to stay on Cambria roads, especially around curves or up steep streets.

Yes, most Cambrians will continue to conserve, as they have for years, but more than ever.

That’s apparently not the case in many other areas.

Culligan man Dan Jensen recently asked if I wanted to save the water he had to drain out of our system. He always asks that whenever water is being removed.

“Everybody in Cambria wants me to save every drop,” Dan said. “But in other communities, almost nobody else does. They just tell me to pour it down the drain. ‘What do I need it for?’ they ask me. I tell them drink it, water a plant, make some coffee. Just don’t just waste it.”

So far, he said, few have reconsidered, and it pains him to watch the water going to waste, draining into the sewer system.

What?! Don’t save the water? Hey, folks, it’s way past time for all of us to pay more attention to how we’re using whatever Mother Nature does provide. In a drought or not, shouldn’t everybody, everywhere, be making the best possible use of all their water?

How about showering with a friend? Now that’s an idea to celebrate! Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Kathe Tanner is a reporter for The Cambrian and The Tribune. Her "Slice of Life" column appears biweekly. Email her at ktanner@thetribunenews.com and follow her on Twitter @cambriareporter.

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