I grew up in a desert. In 1988 my family moved from Los Angeles to Jessamine County, and, strangely enough, Kentucky did not seem much more lush than my home town. In LA, we used as much water as we wanted, and we wanted a lot.
I remember a few years ago my aunt, who still lives in Southern California, came to help my mom for a while after my dad died. As part of helping to clean and organize her house, my aunt started to hose off my mom’s driveway. My mom, shocked, asked what she was doing. My aunt replied, “Cleaning your driveway,” and my mom said, “We have rain for that!”
Despite it being in a desert, Southern Californians still have lush green grass and beautiful gardens. Rarely do they have to limit the amount of water they consume for their landscape or for home use, yet their Northern California neighbors are on constant drought alerts, or at least that is how I remember it from 24 years ago. My assumption is that with environmental concerns rising to the top of the consciousness throughout the country, and especially in California, they may be a bit more aware of water conservation.
In Kentucky, where we, usually, get plenty of rain, it is even harder to make the leap to water conservation for most of the population. We rarely have drought alerts, even when we are well below our average rain fall. Our farmers don’t usually have to irrigate, and even the livestock often have enough water to drink all year long. So, do we really need to save water?
The answer is yes. The Lexington area generally gets its water supply from the Kentucky River and it takes a lot of energy and work to clean the water and then pump it into our homes. Then, it takes even more energy to pump it to the waste water treatment plant to be treated before returning it to the watershed.
Kentucky residents are lucky to not have to be concerned about running out water, but there are many aspects to the treatment that should make us think twice about leaving the water running while brushing our teeth.
So, how do we save water? Kentucky American Water has a list of ways to conserve, including using a broom – not the hose – to clean your driveway.
One of my favorite ways is to use a rain barrel. Rain barrels actually do double duty by helping with water quality as well as water conservation. Rain barrels can save 50 plus gallons of water after each rain that can be used on vegetable or flower gardens; however if you are using native plants you should not need to water them at all.
Their water quality benefits come from their ability of keeping those 50-plus gallons on your property and not allowing the water to pick up pollutants on its way to the stormdrain and a nearby creek. Pollutants can include pet waste, oil or antifreeze from a leaking car, or litter. There may also be financial benefits for both the water saved and the water not being sent to the wastewater treatment plant.
If you are interested in rain barrels, Bluegrass PRIDE is hosting its 9th annual Rain Barrel Reception on June 15 from 5-8 p.m. at Cheapside Park in Lexington. There will be food, music (the Big Maracas!), wine tastings and locally decorated rain barrels. Click here for more information.
PRIDE is also hosting a FREE (thanks to a sponsorship from Kentucky American Water) rain barrel making workshop in Georgetown on June 9. Call 859-266-1572 for more information and to register.
After a rough first year following the move, and 20-plus formative years in the state, I discovered I am a Kentucky girl, and have left my water wasting past behind. No matter where you live, I hope you will join me by installing a rain barrel or following some of the tips to save water.
Amy Sohner is executive director of Bluegrass PRIDE and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with PRIDE since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as Vice-Chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, 5-year-old daughter and a multitude of pets.