Visitors rarely darken my office door, much less those bearing gifts, but earlier this summer a representative from the City of Dallas Water Utilities arrived with a watering can filled with goodies, singing the virtues of the latest campaign: Save Water. Nothing can replace it.

The bright green can contained a low-flow shower head, a shower flowmeter, a sprinkler nozzle, native North Texas wildflower seeds, and a conservation fact sheet. (For some water-wise tips, visit www.savedallaswater.com.) The flow meter caught my attention. I couldn't wait to get home to try it.

You wouldn't believe the technology--the clear plastic bag measures 7- by 16-inches and is marked in gallons per minute. English and Spanish instructions are printed right on the device. I know it doesn't sound very sophisticated, but the tool not only needs to be right for the job but also for the user (think non-technical).

It took three to do the test: one to man the stopwatch for 5 seconds, one to turn the water on to full force and off at the precise second, and one to hold the bag, if you will. I'm relieved to report that both showers in my home registered on the lower end of the scale, between 2.5 and 3 gallons per minute. The meter didn't indicate how much money I was wasting at that level. It did at the 4 gallon per minute level -- $73 per year. But then I read the fine print, which bases the cost on a household of three in 1987 dollars in the Washington, D.C., area. I need an updated meter.

I probably am wasting money and water; it's just hard to say how much. When there's no measure, I think it is easy to sink into some type of environmental fanaticism, at least on my part. I begin to think that current efforts to conserve seem too slow, too little, maybe even too late. Perhaps the government should only allow the manufacture of items that have been certified to conserve water. By law, showers could be retrofitted with regulators that cut off the water after 5 minutes. And why should Americans have a choice to water their lawns with either mist or large water drop sprinklers? Really, why do we need to grow grass at all? Every spring and summer, we water and cut it weekly. What's the point of that?

O.K. I'm back.

Right now, water conservation best practices are voluntary. I wonder what they will be like in 2050, when Dallas predicts it will need 25 percent of its water from conservation and reuse. What do you think?

Send your comments to L.K. Williams, Environmental Group Editor at 1105 Media, Inc.

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Aug 04, 2008

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