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Continuing drought should spark conservation

February 28, 2002|BY BOB MAGINNIS

The Berkeley County, W.Va. water board's passage of an order prohibiting non-essential uses of water is just the latest sign that the Tri-State area must start developing additional sources and long-term conservation strategies.

Of course it may rain heavily in the next two weeks, leading some to believe that the current shortage of rainfall and groundwater was only a temporary problem. Maybe, if your definition of "temporary" is less than a decade.

Earlier this month, meteorologist Jim Vaughn told The Herald-Mail's Andrew Schotz that the drought has gone on since July 1998 and the region is 38.5 inches below normal rainfall. Most governments in the area have imposed mandatory restrictions and appealed for the public to conserve as much as possible.

Now it's time for local governments to pursue the following:

- Get farmers to plant drought-resistant crops, to keep farms from going under, which would lead to more development and more pressure on groundwater.

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-Persuade local industries that use lots of water to look at conservation. This may involve changes in processes so that there's less water used, or that make it possible to use water more than once before putting it into sewer system, and

- Convince the public that water conservation is a civic duty. Does anyone really need a lush green lawn if the cost is less water for industry or increased costs for taxpayer-funded treatment plants? There are grasses and shrubs that survive on minimal amounts of water, if people can be persuaded to plant them.

Finally, the areas that depend on rivers and streams for water need to study the possibility of new reservoirs so that when there's an overabundance of rain, some of it can be stored for the dry times.

This last option will be the most expensive, so it will be to citizens' benefit to learn some new habits, so that in the next few years they can save water and a few dollars as well.

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