Cape Town, South Africa was one of the first cities in the world facing a water crisis. Officials there were predicting that their water would run out within a few months. It got so bad, restaurants and businesses were encouraging people not to flush. And citizens were rationed only 50 liters of water a day.
That was 2018.
A year later, Cape Town’s parched dams became 80% full. Day zero never came. How did they avoid it? Cape Town residents became water-wise.
Cape Town’s officials rolled out a host of water-saving initiatives from two-minute showers to sustainable landscaping and recycling water where appropriate. They said, “The hardest part, in retrospect, was getting residents and businesses on board.” But it happened.
I am sounding the alarm now because this could happen here if our Port Washington residents and businesses don’t get water-wise.
I define water-wise as community-wide acceptance that our drinking water is threatened by overuse and a citizenry taking steps to curb water waste. It really is as simple as that.
The place to start is outdoors where as much as 50% of our water is wasted from inefficient watering methods and systems. To get to the bottom of all of this, the Port Washington Water District launched a campaign called “Do it for Port: If You Love Port, Water Less.”
Since March, we have engaged hundreds of residents, businesses and local students with information on our Capital Improvement Plan to Maintain High Quality Water, Conservation Rules and Tools, and a Certificate Program to Empower Youth To be Stewards of Port’s Drinking Water.
These have included webinars, tours of a well and treatment facility, and a workshop on sustainable plants. Each Do It For Port program asks residents and businesses to get on board with these five proven outdoor water reduction strategies:
For automatic sprinklers, install a rain gauge and a smart sprinkler controller to achieve up to 40% savings. Set according to the PWWD Irrigation Zone Schedule.
To ensure high quality, select a smart sprinkler system with the American Water Works Association “water sense” designation. Smart Sprinklers require an initial investment that we see ranging from $150 – $250. While it pays for itself quickly, in Port Washington we offer a $150 rebate to make the transition more affordable. Go to pwwd.org to access rebate application, zone schedule and tips.
- Follow Nassau County Odd/Even Watering schedule.
- Never water between the peak hours of 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
- Incorporate native plants that require less water such as Wild Geraniums for a beautiful pop of color.
- Keep lawn 3-inches long or higher to increase length of roots and thereby decrease water loss.
As a twist, the “Do It For Port “campaign has our very own residents doing the talking. It features students grades 3-12 asking Port residents to conserve water for THEIR generation and homeowners who already use smart sprinklers sharing how easy and effective they are.
Our next two programs will feature local experts from ReWild Long Island and The Science Museum of Long Island providing step-by-step instructions for truly sustainable gardening:
• On June 11 students, grades 3-12, are invited to a tour of the grounds of The Science Museum of Long Island to learn about native and drought-resistant plants, rain gardens, BIRMS and other rainwater collection strategies.
- June 18 kicks off Port Washington’s first Sustainable Garden Tour with ReWild Long Island where residents will pick up ideas for a great looking garden that uses much less water and fewer chemicals. More information and registration for these events can be found at pwwd.org
Here’s the bottom line: with emerging contaminants, hotter and dryer summers, and sea level rise threatening saltwater to intrude into our aquifers, we must do this. Conservation of this precious life-sustaining resource is no longer just a noble thing to do. This is our only source of water. Conserving water is our way forward.
Do it not only for you and your family. Do it for Port!