considering water conservation
By Don Babwin
Associated Press Writer
Posted on nwitimes.com July 20, 2005
CHICAGO (AP) -- Lawns are turning brown. Flowers are wilting.
Water levels are so low that ducks can stand in some rivers
A drought that is stunting corn, rice and soybean crops
across the nation's Farm Belt is also leading many communities
in more urban parts of the Midwest to ban lawn-watering
and urge homeowners to conserve.
Chicago has seen only about 12 inches of rain since Jan.
1, a little more than half of the 20 inches or so that
normally falls by now, according to the National Weather
In June, Chicago got only about three-quarters of inch,
compared with the usual 3.63 inches. And July is shaping
up to be even worse, with about 0.70 inches so far in
a month that typically gets 3.51 inches.
Conserving water can be a tough sell in Chicago, where
the city's front yard -- Lake Michigan -- is a body of
water about the size of West Virginia.
The level of Lake Michigan is only slightly below normal.
But Sadhu Johnston, commissioner of Chicago's Department
of Environment, warned: "If Chicago and other cities
along the lake just continued pulling more and more water
out of the lake, the level would drop" and devastate
everything from fish to the shipping industry.
"There are all sorts of implications; it's unbelievable,"
The city of Chicago has stopped watering the grass at
parks. And the Fire Department decided to teach firehose
techniques to its firefighters at a park so the ground
would benefit from the water sprayed.
"I'm not watering out of respect for what is happening
ecologically," said Tod Lending, gesturing toward
his the parched front lawn on Chicago's North Side. "I
have a 10-year-old daughter and I'm trying to teach her
what the right thing is to do ecologically."
In Indianapolis, officials have pleaded with customers
to cut back on their use of water. St. Peters, Mo., made
a similar request. So did Chicago, where WGN-TV meteorologist
Dennis Haller said this is the driest summer so far in
In North Aurora, homeowners can hand-water flowers and
gardens, but using a sprinkler can bring a fine of as
much as $750. Algonquin, in suburban Chicago, and Waterford,
Wis., are limiting residents to watering every other day.
Brownsburg, Ind., banned it.
"If there would be a fire, would you rather have
us put the water on the house or water the damn lawn?"
said town Manager Mark White.
In the Chicago suburb of Forest Park, Bridie Hickman
has been collecting water left in her sink after she washes
lettuce and pours it on her vegetable garden. "All
that water used to go down the drain. Now it goes out
in the garden," she said.
Molly Lane, a teacher in Chicago, lives in an apartment
and doesn't have a lawn, but she is saving water where
she can, too. "I let my flowers die," she said.
"I figured I'm not going to waste water on plants.
I mean, they're flowers."
The drought-stricken area cuts a swath from eastern Texas
up into the Great Lakes region, taking in parts of Missouri,
Indiana, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and
virtually all of Illinois.