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If it rains, you have this column to thank for it

March 19, 2002|BY TIM ROWLAND

I was standing at the bus stop in the pouring rain Wednesday, watching the beautiful chalk sidewalk drawings blur into a wash of color a la "Mary Poppins" and reading an article in The Herald-Mail about the awful drought.

All right, so I wasn't at a bus stop, the sidewalk chalk was from where the Public Works Department had marked an underground sewer pipe and technically, it was more drizzle than downpour. But this is Hagerstown, so if you're seeking a romantic scene one has to embellish.

The central point is still valid though: Every time the newspapers do a drought article, it rains. In fact, if any farmers out there would like to contract with me, I'm sure I could hype a Herald-Mail, end-of-the-world drought story next time we need a good soaking.

And a good soaking we need. How bad is it? So bad that the droughts have their own Web sites. No kidding. There's a Maryland drought Web page, a Pennsylvania drought Web page and I'm betting even the West Virginia drought at least has its own sign spray painted on plywood.

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These Web sites tell us useful things such as the fact that it would have to rain 3 feet a day every day for the next two centuries for us to catch up to pre-1999 water table levels.

Every county in the Tri-State area has been affected by the drought and politicians are urging us to conserve water. If they would agree to conserve hot air, I'd call it a deal.

So far, the City of Hagerstown has been spared any mandatory water conservation measures, and for this I credit Bill Breichner. For the past three decades he has been the only person not just concerned, but interested and intrigued, by public aquatic utilities. How intrigued? When Breichner plays Monopoly, he buys Water Works and stands pat.

Now his diligence to matters of water is all paying off. It helps that we get our water from the Potomac River, which unlike wells has a history of not going dry. Our water, incidentally, comes from West Virginia (so I take back that earlier plywood joke) and it's safeguarded somewhat by the William Jennings Bryan reservoir, which regulates the river's flow.

The beauty of getting our water from the river is this: After we are done using it, we put it back. In at Williampsort, out at Little Antietam - it just gets a little rerouted, is all. Why, a lady in Brunswick might at this very moment be taking a bath in the water I brushed my teeth with this morning. How "Green" is that?

I think I could comply with most of the water restrictions that generally go into effect in times of drought: Hose off the driveway? That's never occurred to me, to be honest. Wash the car? Not an issue. Fill swimming pools? I wish. Turn off the water while doing dishes? Can we say "paper plates?"

My problem comes more from the instructions not to water gardens or plants. For our own health and wholesomeness, we are supposed to grow our own vegetables. For the health and wholesomeness of the planet, we are told to plant trees. But we're not supposed to water any of same?

This is where I draw the line. They will have to take me away in cuffs before I stop watering the plants. I strongly reserve the right to allow them to die of their own accord, which they usually do within weeks of being planted.

After all, a tomato you buy in the supermarket has probably been grown AND IRRIGATED in California. California is in more of a water crunch than we are. So why should some private property owner in Maryland be told he cannot water his tomatoes, when some big, chemical-using, pesticide-spewing, agri-business concern in Sou Cal can use all it wants? Will I stand for this! No! I refuse to let The Man win! Who's with me on this! Bully!

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go hose down my siding.

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