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Rain Dance

You call this a drought?

The D word has been used here in Westport. I'm not talking about "Depression." It's worse than that.

Drought.

On July 7 Aquarion customers got a robocalls asking us to basically, well, stop using water as much as possible. Water demand, they explained, had hit a 153-year high. We were asked to cover pools, stop hosing down the driveway, and only water our lawns on alternate days. I believe the word "conservation" was used. 

A few days later, Governor Rell announced a meeting of a drought committee to monitor "potential drought conditions". She also asked Connecticut citizens to avoid using nonessential water and warned of an increased fire risk until the water table had been refilled.

The announcements seem to have touched off a minor hysteria. One friend of mine was yelled at by her neighbor for watering her grass for 15 minutes. On her designated day! Another woman I know had a small heart attack when kids did cannon balls into her pool. All the wasted water!

Any shortage is serious. Water is a precious resource we tend to take for granted. But the first time I heard "drought" in reference to Connecticut, I had to stifle a chuckle.

I'm from Southern California, home of the cracking summer wildfires. In Los Angeles, they don't even bat around the D word until they've gone a good year or two rain-free. Local television stations dispatch "Storm Watch" teams should there be a light drizzle.

But in Connecticut, different story. We have no concept of a true drought here. In a typical year, we get 52 inches of rain. (In comparison, Seattle gets 40, L.A. 14). According to Aquarion, our reservoir supply is normal. Average. Un-drought-like. Remember the March wind storm, when the soil was so saturated that the trees toppled over like toothpicks? It's hard to believe anyone could be talking water shortage just four months later.

Calling this a drought is like complaining about a headache to a cancer patient.

Aquarion's V.P. of corporate communications took great pains to clarify for me that a drought was not the issue. It's was a "peak demand" problem. Water usage was massive early in the morning and evening – depleting stores in the water towers. Because it was so hot and dry earlier in the month, everyone watered their lawns overnight -- when demand usually dropped and the water towers would be refilled. And in Fairfield County, the situation was aggravated by the fact that we have fewer of the unsightly towers than in other parts of the state. The fear was that we'd end up with low pressure or cloudy water from sediment at the bottom of the towers. (But that never developed into a serious problem.)

On Thursday, Aquarion lifted the restrictions. So for now, we're out of the woods.

False alarm, apparently.

And sorry, but the whole thing still makes me laugh.

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