Bob Dunning

Bob Dunning: What if our water is TOO smart?

By From page A2 | October 24, 2013

Public-minded citizen that I am, I received an unsolicited email from the city I love that contained all kinds of personal information, some of it troubling and some of it encouraging. I think this is the city’s version of “tough love,” but who can be sure anymore?
Strangely, it was addressed to “Robert,” which is a name only my mother, my West Davis Elementary School principal and my Catechism teacher have ever called me in my entire life.
And given that there are six of us living under one East Davis roof, I’m not sure why I was singled out for both admonishment and praise.
The return address on this official guided missive complete with colorful graphics was “[email protected],” which is our local government’s way of spying on the water habits of unsuspecting Davisites. Something from this communication tells me the city knows every time I shower, flush or watch the kids run through the sprinklers in the back yard. Which is OK. It’s nice to know someone cares.
“Reduce irrigation to a maximum of 3 days per week, 12 minutes per day in October,” the city demanded without explaining if I would be guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony if I fail to comply.
While I appreciate the city reminding me that it is, indeed, October, I’m not sure what they think I’m irrigating. I mean, we harvested the tomatoes and sent them off to the cannery late last month and the hay has been in the barn for weeks now. The little bit of water we put on the lawn would hardly qualify as “irrigation.”
I can’t imagine watering the grass for 12 solid minutes, mostly because after just 90 seconds with the sprinklers on, the slope of the ground starts sending water over the city sidewalk and directly into the city gutter and on down the street where it runs through a grate into the big hole in the ground. Thus, anything more than a minute and a half is wasted.
But there it was in black and white, just above the pale blue City of Davis old-fashioned bicycle logo: “Reduce irrigation to a maximum of 3 days per week, 12 minutes per day in October.”
Then again, since this was addressed to “Robert” and not to “Bob,” maybe they have the wrong guy altogether. A simple case of mistaken water use identity.
“This report is not a bill,” the correspondence continued. “We are providing this information to help you save water and money.”
Big Brother loves me.
Then, oddly, what follows is a goofy green raindrop with a smiley face. “Robert,” Mr. Raindrop says, “thanks for learning more about your water and ways to use it wisely.” He then tells me how many gallons of water our household uses each day, with the further advice to “Keep up the great work!”
Holy exclamation points, I think maybe we’re doing something right, even if the city does want us to set our sprinklers much longer than they’re set now. The good news is that Robert (see photo above) has no idea how to reset a sprinkler, so the status quo is in no danger.
But wait, there’s more. Immediately below the green smiley face raindrop is a green dollar bill sign inside an equally green circle. Clearly, the color of the month for October is green.
“Congratulations!” it began, once again using exciting punctuation marks to create a mood that mere words never could.
“Your household is one of the most water-efficient homes in Davis. Share your success.”
My mama taught me not to brag, but glory hallelujah, sweetheart, let’s go tell the neighbors about our good fortune and throw a block party with all the money we’ve saved.
Just don’t touch those sprinklers.

— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]

Bob Dunning

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