Water usage concerns grow. Detroit area officials insist on restraint

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Water usage concerns grow

Detroit area officials insist on restraint July 18, 2001


Low water pressure tormented metro Detroit for another day Tuesday as the threat of uncontrolled fires hung over several small communities and the region gulped water at an unprecedented volume.

Despite a light evening rain, water officials increased the urgency of requests that everyone conserve while authorities in parts of Oakland and Macomb counties asserted that they have the power to fine water wasters. So far, however, there were no reports that anyone was cited for disobeying the calls to curb water use.

A BROWN LAWN CAN STILL BE A HEALTHY ONE Lawns can be allowed to go dormant during dry summer weather. This is a natural cycle and the turf should green up again when rainfall resumes.

The grass, however, still needs about a half-inch of water every three to four weeks in a drought. This prevents it from drying out completely and dying, according to Kevin Frank of the crop and soil sciences department at Michigan State University.

In addition to occasional watering, Frank recommends mowing early or late in the day, whichever is cooler. Mowing during intense heat can result in tracks or footprints on the lawn. When this happens, the grass mats, causing the blades to break off or become stressed. Bare spots then occur, making prime ground for weed seeds to germinate once the rains come again.

Frank said the mower height should be set as high as possible. Grass plants have more area to produce nutrients when they have taller blades. Tall blades also shade the soil, slowing water evaporation.

Plants and flowers will benefit from a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch to help conserve soil moisture.

By Marty Hair


For more information about water geared toward children, contact the federal EPA web site at www.epa.gov/safewater/ kids/index.html.

For tips on how to conserve water at home: www.epa.gov/owm/ resitips.htm

For tips on how to save water and money using low-flow fixtures, check out this water industry association site: www.awwa.org/pressroom/ pr/010618.htm.

Meanwhile, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department administrators said Tuesday that two of the driest towns in the region -- Chesterfield and Macomb townships -- could have avoided the worst of the crisis by hooking up to a new water line any time over the past year.

Local officials were unaware the three-mile line was complete until they met with Detroit water authorities Tuesday morning, according to James Heath, Detroit's assistant director of water operation. Township officials could not be reached Tuesday evening for comment.

"There was some miscommunication there," Heath said. "We've been talking to each other all along. But the subject never came up," he said, referring to the new pipe.

Chesterfield and Macomb township leaders are welcome to make as many connections as they like to the pipe near 24 Mile Road, completed about a year ago, Heath said.

Construction is to begin in January on two more pipes -- including one that would head south to Clinton Township -- and they might be finished by the end of 2002, Heath said. He added that the department has funds set aside for those projects.

Another key improvement to the region's water-delivery system is scheduled for completion in about a month when electricians are to finish connecting powerful motors to several new pumps at what Heath calls a booster station in Imlay City.

The pumps are to move water from the Detroit system's drinking water-treatment plant on Lake Huron in Ft. Gratiot Township -- and increase the speed of water flowing through pipes through parts of Oakland and Macomb counties. The plant is one of five that process and disinfect hundreds of millions of gallons of freshwater every day.

The metro Detroit water system is one of the largest in the country, serving about 4.3 million people in eight counties: Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Lapeer, Genesee, Monroe and Washtenaw.

As people spread their homes and businesses increasingly throughout this region, more and bigger pipes and pumps are needed to keep pressure strong throughout the 4,200 miles of pipes in the Detroit drinking-water system.

The Great Lakes contain about a third of the world's freshwater supply. It's not that Michiganders are running out of water. Better plumbing is the need.

Metro Detroiters continued an unprecendented streak of consumption Tuesday, with officials projecting use of more than a billion gallons for the seventh day in a row.

Last year, water use in the region topped 1 billion gallons for just one day.

Clinton Township Fire Chief John Murphy said residents may see the restrictions merely as a way to keep showers and toilets flowing, but it's more than that.

"What people do in their homes affects us," he said. "The water restrictions and the water system are all tied together. If the people are using water, we may not have it when it we need it for a big emergency."

Residents are practicing conservation in Clinton Township, where a hospital and businesses are shipping in water due to the low pressure, said township Supervisor Robert Cannon. Last week, there was too little pressure for water to reach showers on the second floors of some homes, Cannon said.

"I think everyone understands it's better to have a brown spot or two of grass," he said. "We'd rather have our toilets flush than have a plush green carpet on the front lawn."

He said residents should avoid blaming Detroit and using it as an excuse to use as much water as they wish.

"This problem is not just a Detroit problem," he said. "It's everybody's problem."

Contact EMILIA ASKARI at 248-586-2606 or askari@freepress.com. http://www.freep.com/news/metro/water18_20010718.htm

-- Tess (webwoman@imitt.com), July 18, 2001

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