Yesterday was our last day of birthday vacation. We had both taken off Monday and Tuesday to spend some much-needed time relaxing together and reconnecting. We did that by playing a crapload of Monopoly, eating most meals out, and scaring ourselves silly at a matinee showing of 30 Days of Night in which we were literally the only people in the theater. All in all, it was a pretty perfect vacation.

Except for the fact that we had no water for nine hours yesterday. That’s right. None.

For the last two weeks, the fire hydrant in front of our condo association has been leaking water. I’m not talking about a trickle. I’m talking about a gushing river of precious water running down the street. In case y’all haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of a MAJOR drought here. It’s the lead story on the news every night, and the main topic of conversation around ever water cooler. Popular wisdom has it that we may very well be out of water by Christmas. That’s right. Out of water completely.

So you can understand why we (and by we I mean both the condo association and random residents) have been calling the city every day, begging them to come out and fix this leak. And apparently they finally heeded our pleas yesterday.(Seriously though, what took them so long? We are in a state of emergency regarding water, and they let thousands of gallons just wash away.) Of course, they didn’t bother to tell anyone first. They just showed up with their trucks and their digging machine, and they cut off the water. We were in the middle of cleaning up our breakfast dishes when the water sputtered and quit. We were lucky. At least one of our neighbors appeared a few minutes later in a robe, her hair still full of shampoo.

Because I am nothing if not nosy, I marched over to the city workers and asked (politely) how long they anticipated having the water cut off. They assured me that it would not take long, probably about two hours. So we ran a few errands and did some grocery shopping, assuming it would be back on when we returned. No such luck. In fact, no such luck the next fifty times we tried the tap. When the sun began to set, we took the dog for a walk and again, I asked how long it would be. Not long, he told me. Probably around two hours. (Are they trained to reply that way regardless of reality?)

That time it really was back on in roughly two hours. Thank god. Our dirty dishes were festering and our toilet needed to be flushed. And we’d used roughly a dozen bottles of water over the course of the day for hand washing and other tasks, but we both still felt dirty and needed a shower before bed.

All in all, it wasn’t the end of the world. It certainly was inconvenient. And it wasn’t very comfortable. But most of all, it was a wake up call. Because if we, as a state, don’t do something drastic, that could be out daily life in just a few weeks. There’s already a town in Tennessee facing that scenario. They are out of water and must live off water pumped in from other towns, water that flows just three hours a night.

Monday, like most citizens of Atlanta and our neighboring towns, that threat seemed only theoretical to me. It was something I discussed, but since I always worry about conserving water, not much has changed in my daily life. I don’t water my lawn or wash my car. I take quick showers and turn off the tap while brushing my teeth. But it took losing my free access to water to realize just how frequently I use it — every toilet flush, every hand washing, etc. And now I realize just how much I will be affected, should the worst come to pass.

I wish every resident of the city would receive the same wake up call. Because I am SICK of seeing people water their lawns and wash their cars. The water police are out, watching for infractions and handing out tickets. But it’s not enough. I was annoyed before. Now I’m furious. Every citizen should be doing everything they can. Wishing for rain is not enough.

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