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Personal Water Conservation: An Extreme Case

Cathy Duchamp

Most of us take water for granted. Even during a drought, you turn on the tap, and the water is there. But conservation is a way of life for some people, who have developed creative solutions to cope with the region’s water shortage. In part three of our series on conservation, KUOW’s Cathy Duchamp has this profile of three Seattle households living the dry life.

WALK INTO THE CAPITOL HILL APARTMENT OF BOE ODDISEY AND YOU HEAR A FLUTE AND A FOUNTAIN. AND YOU KNOW INSTANTLY THAT WATER IS MUCH MORE THAN SOMETHING THAT FLOWS OUT OF THE TAP: I’m a water sign I’m a Cancer and water is for cleansing and drinking and sound and relaxation and purification and its very very very very precious. I try to conserve water as much as I possibly can. ODDISEY MOVED TO THIS SECTION 8 APARTMENT LAST JANUARY. BEFORE THAT, HE LIVED IN SEATTLE’S TENT CITY, WHERE WATER WAS A SCARCE RESOURCE: For showers we had to go to the Urban rest stop which was hours wait. And drinking water we would have jugs we’d fill. AND EVEN THOUGH IN HIS 11TH FLOOR APARTMENT HE CAN TURN ON THE TAP ANYTIME HE WANTS, ODDISEY DOES NOT SPLURGE: To conserve water is the right thing for me to do to be in harmony with the universe. [music back up into transition] WHILE ODDISEY FEELS A SPIRITUAL NEED TO CONSERVE, FURTHER SOUTH, IN SEATTLE’S CENTRAL NEIGHBORHOOD, CONSERVATION IS ABOUT APPRECIATING A PRECIOUS RESOURCE What I’m doing is I’m taking the watering can and I dipped it into the barrel and its fairly full now. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT PAUL BYRON CRANE FEEDS HIS PLANTS WITH RAINWATER COLLECTED IN FIVE 60-GALLON BARRELS. CRANE SAYS HE’S ALWAYS BEEN CONSERVATION MINDED. BUT A TRIP LAST FALL TO THE YUCATAN CONVINCED HIM TO DO MORE: Water is very precious there. There’s one theory that that’s what brought down the the Mayan civilization. Which is that they had two to three years of sustained drought. And then to come back to find out that we’re having a severe drought here. CRANE WENT OUT AND BOUGHT AS MANY RAIN BARRELS AS HIS HOME’S DOWNSPOUTS COULD HANDLE. CRANE’S BARRELS AND PLANTS WILL BE DRY BY JULY. STILL, HE BELIEVES THERE’S A GOOD SIDE TO THE DROUGHT: It’s causing people to think. Everybody thinks it rains all the time in Seattle. Well they don’t seem to realize that Seattle depends on a snow pack and if you have a warm winter as we have here that resource is depleted very quickly. [sound of water pouring] IN SEATTLE’S WALLINGFORD NEIGHBORHOOD CONSERVATION IS A DEMONSTRATION OF CREATIVITY: We have tomatoes, peppers, peas, wild greens… . NANCY COOMER AND DAUGHTER KATHARINE DESCRIBE A BOUNTIFUL BACKYARD CROP. THANKS IN PART TO A GRAY WATER SYSTEM NANCY COOMER INVENTED. THE SYSTEM RECYCLES KITCHEN WATER. THE COOMERS CARRY THE WATER TO THE BACKPORCH IN A TUB… you pour it down here, which is a black pipe.. and it goes into the sink and then it goes into the drain hole into the garden. NINE YEAR OLD KATHARINE SAYS SOME OF HER FRIENDS THINK THE SYSTEM IS WEIRD. BUT FOR NANCY COOMER, IT’S AN ACHIEVEMENT. THE BIOLOGIST AND DAUGHTER OF AN ENGINEER HAS DOZENS OF PROJECTS IN PROCESS- ALL FEED HER NEED TO BE INGENIOUS: I love having little inventions around that help my life. Its less that I such a good person I’m conserving water, as ‘look at this neat thing I’ve built.’ That’s what I like about it. THE COOMER’S GRAY WATER SYSTEM DOESN’T END THERE. Right behind you is our shower THAT’S RIGHT, AN OUTDOOR SHOWER, WHICH CLEANS THE COOMERS, AND FEEDS THE GARDEN: Its nice and bright and I’m planting nice smelling things like this is corsican mint and these are two jasmine plants so it will be very nice smelling eventually. THE COOMERS SAY THE ACTUAL WATER SAVINGS IS MINOR- GALLONS A DAY. BUT FOR THEM, AS WELL AS PAUL CRANE AND BOE ODDISEY, LIVING THE DRY LIFE IS REALLY ABOUT DOING THEIR LITTLE PART. I’M CATHY DUCHAMP. KUOW 94.9 PUBLIC RADIO.