By Mark Haubner

You may look around the East End and think water, water everywhere. And you may think water is cheap.

Think again. Our drinking water is a resource that is projected to run out. It’s a problem that has a solution, because together we can  prevent that from happening. Just do one thing.

Some of us are old enough to remember gasoline prices pushing the $4 mark back around 2007, and some of us don’t remember why that happened — but our family was sure cautious about how we drove, coasting up to lights, planning our car trips, filling up before the price went up by 5 cents the next day.

There were months where the household was spending almost $1,000 per month on gasoline and the impact was noticeable.

Comparatively, my water bill for 22,000 gallons from September through April is about $60, and with an eye to the weather, it’s a bit more when we water the turfgrass around the house. So for only pennies for a thousand gallons, we don’t worry much about pressure-washing the house, the car, the patio, or a leaky faucet, for that matter.

Considering only the price of the water, however, is only a small part of the big picture, where the cycle that water obeys places demands on it that we simply do not see. Our impact on the water cycle is now in the news every week.

Things we’d never heard of before are threatening our health and safety — PFOS, PFAS, 1,4-Dioxane — which persist over long periods of time and which are costly to pull out of the drinking water we pump every day. 

Add billions of gallons of nitrogen, leaching from our antiquated systems of cesspools and septic tanks to our aquifer, then pump 20 million gallons of fresh water every day in the summer (in Riverhead), mostly for watering our green grass, and we’ve achieved a disruption in the water cycle that we must all address. Long Island’s only water source is from directly beneath our feet, in what’s known as our sole-source aquifer.

Just do one thing. The best part of all of this is that we know what to do. We have the solutions to keep our aquifer safe.

We know what to do to minimize our negative impacts on our water supply, which is shared by over 3 million people in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and parts of Queens. Whether for reasons of quantity or quality, we know the solution is to make a habit of conservative use of a precious resource.  

Like your grass green? Well, we have a ton of examples on how to keep your grass green without large amounts of water, without a chemical dependency, without having to cause the water districts to drill more very expensive wells.

Here’s what I found easy to do in Riverhead:

• Water my lawn once a week instead of three times, and stagger my watering times, water only before 5 a.m. and after 9 p.m., never in direct sun — you’re just wasting water and money (and guess what, we are getting some help from new Riverhead regulations to prohibit summer watering from 5 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.)

• Upgraded my 3-gallon-per-flush toilet to a 1.2-gallon-per-flush unit  for under $400.

Here’s what my colleague in Orient does:

• As far as the lawn goes, for us less is more. We love stone and have created permeable stone patios around the house (no mowing, no watering, no ticks!) The one place that is still what you might call lawn, we planted in clover (no mowing!)

• Turn off, load up, use less is our motto. Turn off when brushing teeth, load up the dishwasher, use less by having a rain barrel for watering the garden. Hey, it saves money too!

Together we are part of a grassroots group effort called Drawdown East End, to bring about local solutions to reverse global warming. We are inspired by the science of Project Drawdown and its achievable goal of reaching drawdown — the point where human generated greenhouse gases stop climbing and start to decline. Project Drawdown identifies a roadmap of scientifically valid, commonly available best practices and technologies that, when scaled broadly, can reverse global warming and provide cascading economic, health and security benefits.

Drawdown did the math.  Worldwide, pumping water is sending greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Water utilities are among the biggest consumers of electricity globally,  Here on the East End, we recognize that our pure, drinkable water is a precious resource that could run out.

And we have the solutions.  All we have to do is start by just doing one thing. Start a new habit. We are only asking you to do ONE THING to conserve our precious sole source aquifer. And then get your family and friends to each do ONE THING. 

Just as a thousand raindrops create the puddle in the street, a thousand singular efforts create an impact in just one day. Join us, our East End community and everyone across the country in celebration of Groundwater Awareness Week the first week in March.  What will your one thing be? The time…is now.

Climate Local Now is a partnership between the East End Beacon and Drawdown East End, which is working to implement the local and personal goals of “Project Drawdown,” a comprehensive plan to stop climate change.

Mark Haubner has been recycling newspaper since 1965, and not seeing his example being followed by everyone on the planet, started learning Science Communication in earnest about 6 years ago. He got a Certificate in Sustainability and Behavior Change from the University of California at San Diego (the daily commute was grueling) and now writes Community Based Social Marketing programs for the various nonprofits with which he is involved.

Mr. Haubner, along with Ellen Bialo and Drawdown East End, will host a Zoom program this evening, Feb. 9 on “Lawn & Landscape for the Future” at 6:30 p.m. Here’s how to register.

East End Beacon
The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

2 thoughts on “Climate Local Now: Start With Water

  1. I hope it is a mistake when you say that ” new Riverhead regulations (will) prohibit watering from 5 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.” That seems to say you must water from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – in the middle of the day – or from 9 p.m. to – in the middle of the night. That can’t be right.

    1. Hi, Loring, this is actually correct. These are the peak pumping hours in the Riverhead Water District, and the time when the system is most stressed, when people are showering, getting ready for work, and making dinner (and maybe showering again) when they come home. Riverhead’s goal is to encourage property owners to set their irrigation system timers to water during the night. Here are more details:

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