Flushed with Civic Pride

Because of the ongoing drought here in Texas, our little burg went to Stage 4 water restrictions a few weeks back.  That meant that folks are only allowed to water lawns and landscaping on certain designated days.

Those days are determined by the residents’ street addresses:  those ending in a 1 or a 2 have Mondays as their watering day, and so on through the week.

No one is allowed to water on the weekends and, no matter what your day, there is no watering between the hours of 10:00 am and 6:00 pm because with the temps. hovering at 100 degrees (or more), the water would just evaporate and be a complete waste of that precious resource.

People being what they are (“Don’t Tread on Me” douche nozzles) you can imagine that there have been a number of violations of this city ordinance.

Lawns in some areas have been suspiciously green.  So much for the honor system.

It was time to kick butt, so the city sent out their enforcers who started giving people citations for breaking the “What part of ‘no watering’ do you not understand?” law, to the tune of $250 per citation, with repeat offenders facing the possibility of having their water service cut off.

Suddenly, more lawns became brown and crispy.  The sign of a true patriot.

Or, someone who has to take a direct hit to his wallet in order to become a good citizen.

The other day I was at Walmart, my second home, and I felt nature calling.

Okay, I had to pee.  So I went to the restroom at the back of the store.  You have to walk along the faux flower aisle to get there and I saw that they have all the Fall decor out.  Everything was a rather loud array in shades of orange, brown and yellow.

Normally, I wouldn’t mind seeing that.  But since all of the countryside is already in hues of desiccated oranges, dried-up browns and parched yellows, this was not something I wanted to linger around and enjoy.

I headed straight to the bathroom, and upon opening the door I was immediately met with a loud whooshing sound.  In fact, I could hear it outside of the bathroom and from some distance.

At first I thought it was one of the wall mounted hand dryers that blast out a stream of air, since those things are pretty loud.

Get your hands dried and lose 25% of your hearing all at the same time.

Pretty quickly, though, I discovered that the sound was the continual flushing of the toilet in the handicapped stall.  I went to investigate and was somewhat amazed at the velocity and volume of water that was, literally, being flushed down the toilet in a wasteful fashion.

The toilets are the kind that have a sensor that detects (I’m assuming) when your hiney blocks out the light and then gives you so many seconds before the automatic flush kicks in.

There is also a little black button on the wall behind it so you can “do-it-yourself” if you’re so inclined.  So I pushed that a couple of times just to see if maybe that might reset the mechanism or something.

Nope.  Niagara was still churning away.

So upon leaving I snagged an employee who was walking to the storeroom area adjacent to the bathrooms.  She was taking off her name tag so she probably was done for the day.

To her credit, she only looked slightly annoyed when I stopped her.

I told her what was going on in the ladies’ bathroom and her expression changed right away to one of concern.  “We can’t have that!” she said and then she told me she would find someone who could take care of it.

Today we got our local paper which has been reporting the state of the water wells for the city every week.

This week’s amount of water being pumped on any given day was 3.6 million gallons.

We figure 550,000 gallons of that came from the ladies’ room handicapped toilet at WalMart.

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20 thoughts on “Flushed with Civic Pride

  1. OOF! I hate Walmart, and I don’t think I would be able to bring myself to use their facilities no matter how badly I needed to pee. I thought your story might have been that someone had rigged the toilet to flush continuously in protest of the water restrictions…..that would not have surprised me at all. And I love how the lawns finally turning brown after the grass enforcers were on the job. Priorities, priorities.

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  2. It cracked me up to read about the enforcers. “And then the lawns suddenly became brown and crispy.” Yes. True patriots and greenies doing their part. My mom and dad live in San Antonio and when I was there in July I saw a lot of green lawns in their gated neighborhood. Hope the enforcers can get past the security in those places and aren’t just targeting the less fortunate.

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    • No gated neighborhoods within the city limits here, so the enforcement is pretty egalitarian. There is one gated “adult” community outside of town, but the restrictions wouldn’t be mandatory for them, only voluntary. I’m sure there’s plenty of green to be seen there.

      On my drive into town one day I saw a lawn sprinkler going full tilt at around noon at a house that was right across the street from the “City Limit” sign, just out of the city’s jurisdiction. *sigh*

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  3. Good for you – and the WallMart employee. I am so glad you didn’t say that she rushed off because her shift was done~!

    On my wee island – where water is a precious commodity all the time, we don’t water lawns. A lawn sprinkler salesman would starve to death!

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    • In more “normal” years we would have some rain to keep the lawns going through the heat of summer. It took the threat of fines to get people to loosen their grip on the idea that their lawns HAD to be green no matter what. The Master Gardeners in town suggested that folks let their lawns go because they will come back once the rains start again (hopefully!). More and more there has been a trend toward xeriscaping or using native plants that are drought tolerant. Big expanses of green lawns don’t fit into that and really don’t belong here, but old habits are hard to break.

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  4. astroturf is the only grass that stays green in a drought. i was told that it was better not to water than to ‘tease’ the grass with dribs and drabs of water.

    my philosophy: grow or die. a local version of survival of the fittest, i guess…

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  5. The flush valves in many public facilities are intended to be low volume with higher pressure behind them. When they stick in the “open” position, all that is usually required is to shut off the water flow which allows it to reset. (Found this out when I was working the midnight shift in a 24-hour gas station.) Sadly, the valve is not usually accessible. On the most commonly used Sloan valve, it’s concealed behind a largish hexagonal cover. If it isn’t torqued down too hard, you can probably grab it with your hand and unscrew it. Then with your handy Swiss Army knife from your pocket, turn the screw clockwise until the water stops, then turn it back the other way and put the cover back on.

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    • Thanks for the info., Elmo! After I left it occured to me that maybe I should have looked for the water cut-off valve, but from what you said (and from what my hubby tells me) it would have been hidden from view anyway, probably to keep kids or pranksters from messing with it. As for the Swiss Army knife, I don’t carry one of those around with me but I have found that the edge of a dime works pretty well in a pinch, provided the screw is a slotted one, not a phillips type.

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  6. I think Mother Nature is telling Rick Perry he has gotten too big for his britches.

    Remember a couple of months ago when some drunk peed in a city reservoir in Portland, Oregon and it was caught on camera? The city flushed 8M gallons of treated drinking water because of it. (Never mind that when they drained it, they found paint cans, dead animal carcasses, garbage and gawd-knows-how-much goose poop.) They should have made the jerk truck the water down to y’all as punishment for his crime. He could have rented a U-Haul tanker truck and made it in about 8 or 10 trips, don’t you think?

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/06/20/main20072745.shtml

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  7. When we lived in N. Calif. one of the Gold Rush era towns (the county seat, as it happened) had an open aqueduct that supplied the town with water. The water then went through the usual treatment process. People used to make such a fuss about the times when excessive rainfall caused mud to get into the aqueduct. But we used to laugh because the aqueduct went through several ranches and it wasn’t unusual to see cattle standing belly deep in it. And, most likely, doing their “business” too.

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  8. I live in an apartment so I never quite the lawn obsession. True, I wouldn’t want it to die, but on the other hand I’d rather have water to drink down the line.

    Here in NYC we are getting a hurricane tomorrow so what did I see tonight? A guy watering his lawn, and at 11pm no less! As if he won’t have more water than he can handle tomorrow!

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  9. We don’t often get restrictions like that in our neck of the woods, but I have lived in cities during times when it is prohibited to water the lawn. But the enforcement has always been strict. I will never understand people who think a green lawn is more important than conserving water. I also am adamantly opposed to using chemicals on lawns, particularly since I am a beekeeper.

    I hope you get some wet weather very soon!!

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    • It’s taken some doing, but the people who have had the lush green lawns are finally letting them brown up a bit. I think they’re so used to just turning on the tap that they don’t even think about where that water comes from and that it could run dry at some point. We moved here from California, where they’re always touting water conservation, so we get it. Others have to be threatened with hefty fines to make them comply.

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      • And it amazes me how lawns recover from dry spells (although we haven’t had a drought like yours.) Our lawn was toasted brown and crispy in July, and after two good rainfalls, it started growing like crazy again. Resilient, that grass!

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    • *Sigh* Sadly, they’re predicting strong winds from the northwest on Sunday, which will only serve to push away any rain to the east of us and strengthen the high pressure that’s been parked over us for months. It is SO frustrating to see all of that rain being dumped in an area that definitely doesn’t need it, when we’re shriveling up from lack of moisture. 😦

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