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Water Everywhere But Here

With the cheapness

With the cheapness

I’m not as cheap as I was, but must still be in the cheapskate One Percent. If there is a coupon, I will use it; if a matinee, I will see it. Bread comes off the day-old rack and, since I’m eating meat every so often, the column where yesterday’s packages have reduced stickers. It’s the same as yesterday, only today. Discounts always involve time.

Moderation comes with moderating deprivation. The heat is turned down, but not to cruelty. A light left on is something I can forgive myself. Clothes aren’t new but are in good repair, and certainly clean. I buy myself ice cream and don’t hesitate to buy a friend lunch. The Mastercard is a little higher than I would like, but there’s plenty to save, and if the bottom drops out of things I need something to cut. What that would be I really don’t know. I don’t even have a TV.

I do tend to be a little stingy with water. Some of it comes from knowing the fish need it more than me, and some from having grown up in Texas, where summers baked it out of everything and winters and springs had filthy deluges washing out streets. Clear, clean water that still smells like mountain streams is an amazing, everyday luxury. To appreciate it, go to Texas, or Nevada, or Sudan. It’s water that will get us with the coming warming: you need water to do anything.

A new house in a pinko town comes preset cheap with water: faucets mix in a lot of air, the toilets half-flush and the showers spray just enough. I use the Australian method with the john: if it’s yellah, whoa there fellah; if it’s brown, flush it down. Dish and clothes washers, maybe one load, at most once a week. I am conscious, but not punishing.

Seattle Public Utilities bills every other month; we pay for two months at a time for water, sewer and trash-recycling-composting. The first bills seem large until I realize their bimonthly nature, but they spur me to wonder if I could save any more water. The only reasonable thing I can think of is to get a low-flow showerhead. Big Box hardware naturally has a dizzying array of them and no way to really evaluate which would work best, so I get the ten dollar one and guess its potential as a significant mistake is low. It certainly sprays a little less, but enough to take a real shower. It does make a difference. I think I save a dollar a month. Friends, the victory is modest in money, but I hope some fish or tree appreciates it.

When the bill above comes, I notice what I pay for the water itself is maybe half the unknowable ‘base charge’. The graph and box score breakdown are more interesting, or they register in a way they haven’t before. 36.78 gallons a day–is that a lot, or cheap? I consult the Google. The EPA says the ‘average house’ uses 350 to 400 gallons a day. If that’s true I’m very cheap, at only about 35% the average, give or take. (The EPA ‘average house’ is for a family of four.)

Truly, the stuff of a New Yorker cartoon. Oh, Harold only flushes every other day. But it satisfies some deep inner child calling, the ones that listened to Woodsy the Owl and had me putting gallon milk jugs in our 1978 toilet tanks. Letting the toilet leak or keeping August grass green is pointless waste as a horror, one that offends the sense of Calvinist Yankee thrift I picked up from grandparents–a worldview where waste is a moral failing, an unconscious theft. With half the country on fire or baking in a foretaste of the new normal, I think the most moral thing I can do is to shepherd what I have plenty of.

That said, if you visit, flush as desired. But think of the children.

Addendum: the Australian flush method becomes less tenable during 80 degree days. Australians are a hardy people.


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