Our Pretty Brown River is Drying Up


Isn’t that just the prettiest brown river you ever saw?

The River Raisin runs right through my town.

Actually, it crosses through town several times.

This little river has the distinction of being the twistiest river in the entire world.

It’s always brown and often stinky.

It used to be fairly toxic from industrial run-off, but local businesses and environmental groups and concerned citizens worked hard for years to clean it up and it’s much better these days.  There are actually live fish in the river now!  If you knew our river 30 years ago, you would understand that this is great progress.

The river starts northwest of where I live in a swampy area and follows its meandering path all the way to lake Erie.

It may not be crystal clear, but it’s beautiful in its own way, and it is the source of water for everyone who lives near here.

And it’s drying up.

The irony is that it looked like this just a few months ago:

Look how COLD everything looks! It’s been so hot lately I can barely remember what cold felt like.

Crossing a footbridge over the river during last weekend’s festival we noticed that you can see, on the concrete pilings, where the water level was only a few hours ago because they are still wet.

It’s dropping by inches every day, pouring into Lake Erie without being refilled by the rain.

Once it’s gone, there is no more water for this little town.

And we are not alone.  According to weather.com the USA is currently in the worst drought we’ve seen since the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  

My oldest two children, who live much of the year in Arizona, just don’t get it.

“Our river only has water in it 3 or 4 days a year.  What’s the big deal?” Gorgeous Not-So-Hippie Teenager said.

The big deal is, this isn’t the desert.  It’s the heart of farmland USA.

The bigger deal?

People don’t seem to realize the problem.

I see folks watering their lawns and playing in sprinklers.  I see pools that have no covers.

Until the rain comes again… or even better… SNOW! (I LOVE SNOW!)…. there are fairly simple ways to conserve water.  You don’t have to jump all the way up on the Hippie Bandwagon.  Just be a little bit careful.

Here are a few simple, cheap, ways that you can help save our precious resource:

*  If you really just can’t stand your brown lawn (I still can’t wrap my mind around WHY we all have lawns) and you MUST water it, do so early in the morning or late at night.  This will minimize evaporation.

* When cleaning out your fish tank, use the nutrient-rich waste water to water your garden instead of just pouring it down the drain.

*  Wash dishes by hand in a sink full of soapy water (not under running water) instead of using the dishwasher.  Rinse them in a sink full of clean water.  When you’re done, use that water to water your plants.

* If you must use the dishwasher, fill it as full as possible to get the most out of it.  Do the same when washing clothes.

* It’s 100+ degrees out, so I’m certainly not going to tell you to stop washing!  But, you can take showers instead of baths.  Try to cut a minute or two off your showering time.

* Avoid using the toilet as a trash can.  You use 2-7 gallons of water every time you flush.

* Avoid using your garbage disposal when possible.

*  Sweep your sidewalks and driveway instead of rinsing with a hose.

*  Cut back on how often you wash your car.  I know, I know.  It offends your sensibility to drive a dusty vehicle, but I promise a little dust won’t destroy it.

*  If you use a garden hose for anything, put a sprayer on the end of it so you can control how much water is coming out.

*  If you have a pool, cover it when it’s not in use.

*  If your children need to cool off by playing in the sprinkler (and I don’t blame them if they do.  It is HOT out there!), make sure it is turned off when they are done. If possible, place it strategically so that your lawn, garden, flowers are watered while they are playing.

Above all, be aware.  If you just give some conscious thought to how much water you are using, you will see easy ways to conserve and if we all conserve a little, we will be able to keep our twisty brown river (or whatever river is near you) flowing until the rain returns.


8 responses »

  1. My brown lawn doesn’t bother me, although I have been watering my small garden (I hope that is permissable). And you should have told me the fish tank trick before I cleaned it this week. 2.5 gallons of water, down the drain.

    • Watering gardens is permissible, by my hippie standards, as it provides good, healthy, affordable food for the family. But you should water in the morning or evening, not in the heat of the day when it all just evaporates and turns into rain somewhere far, far away.

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