The weather has cooled off a few degrees and it is finally pleasant to open the windows in the evening again, but the sky is still cloudless and the dry breeze continues to suck the moisture out of the ground. The City of Mason, like virtually all of Central Texas, is suffering through one of the worst drought years in recorded history. We started talking about the water issues in March of this year, and instituted Stage 1 of the City’s Drought Contingency Plan on April 4, 2011 due to the increasing fire hazards. In mid-summer we moved to Stage 2 which requires mandatory compliance with water use restrictions effective on July 11, 2011. The City has repeatedly asked all residents to consider the serious impact of this prolonged drought on our water supply and what you can do to help conserve water. We have seen many people take our suggestions seriously and reduce their water usage for lawn care and other non-essential uses, and the brown lawns around town are a symbol of our resident’s commitment to save water for the future. The City of Mason is not in the dire circumstances some other communities are facing as they run out of water. However, with the projections for very little change in the weather for the next twelve months, the City Commission has responded to this prolonged period of hot and dry weather by setting new restrictions and penalties as a part of our Drought Contingency Plan. These restrictions on the use of water for lawn watering and other outdoor water uses are posted elsewhere in this paper and will be mailed to all individual water customers in the next week so that you can know just what is good and what is unacceptable. Your yard may not stay as green as in the past, but the abundance of brown yards around town means that we will have water in the future for everyone’s use.A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in my City Corner column an interesting article about water values in America, and I would like to share a bit more from that source. It seems that about 100 years ago cities around the country discovered that basic sand filtration and chlorination could clean and disinfect water supplies from most of the disease carrying bacteria. In the decade from 1905 to 1915, dozens of cities and water systems around the country installed filters and chlorination and we went through a revolution that profoundly improved water quality. As a direct result of clean and disease free water, from 1900 to 1940 US mortality rates fell 40 percent and life expectancy at birth went from 47 years to 63 years. In just 40 years the life span of the average American was extended 16 years. Out here in rural Texas that first water revolution may have been a little delayed, but it did arrive and when it did it meant that we could live as if water was unlimited, free and safe, and thus we could stop thinking and worrying about it on a daily basis. The fact that water was always available “on demand” meant that we could use it more, even as we thought about it less.Some of the figures are dramatic; in 1955 the US Geological survey said that rural Americans without running water in their homes used 10 gallons a day per person. For newly “electrified” farm families with pumps, and for city families, that number was already 60 gallons per person. Today, it is over 100 gallons per person in a home each and every day! However, water’s very availability has led to its invisibility. Most people have no idea where the water they use to cook, brush their teeth, water their yard or flush the toilet comes from, or how it gets to them. The pipes are hidden, the sources of the water are remote, and all the work that it takes to get it to your home and keep it clean is mostly done out of sight. The water in your home probably costs less than your TV or cell phone bill, and a gallon at home costs next to nothing compared to a bottle of water at the convenience store. We are generally ignorant of our own “watermark”, of the amount of water required to float us through the day, and we are indifferent to the mark our daily lives leave on the water supply. With the continued drought, it is time we remembered the lessons our grandparents learned in the 1950’s when water was scarce. Although our yards may turn brown, we will preserve the water resources our community relies on and in the future we know that when we need water it is there for our use and enjoyment. As the hot and dry weather continues, take a few minutes in the next week and consider how you can reduce your water needs and put into practice the best water conservation methods you can find. The City Commission has established restrictions to protect the community’s health and stability, and working together we can all save a few precious gallons of water and secure a better future for everyone. Mason is a great place to live and work, and with everyone contributing a little more we can enjoy the best hometown in Texas for many years to come.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley