- The Washington Times - Friday, May 23, 2003

A rainy week, saturated ground and flood warnings in the Washington area weren’t enough to inhibit one group from making water conservation a priority goal.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, in conjunction with area water utilities, this week began a regional “Wise Water Use Campaign” to urge residents and businesses to save water in 100 different ways year-round.

Some of the measures involve simple lessons taught by many parents: Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save four gallons a minute. Other practices are not so commonplace: Wash your car on the grass. This will water your lawn at the same time.

Jim Shell, program director for the campaign, said messages for more efficient water usage will pop up on movie screens, the airwaves and television sets. He also said officials will go into classrooms to tell children how they can help prevent water shortages.

“It is a campaign that is long-term and is meant to change the habits of people,” Mr. Shell said. “This campaign is not just for a drought period.”

The collaboration between local governments and utilities marks the first time that there has been a coordinated outreach campaign on water usage, Mr. Shell said. A joint message will have a bigger effect on people and add to the effectiveness of the drive, he said.

But to some, the plan comes at a time when and in an area where governments should be worrying about a number of other things. What may be a problem in the dry, dusty Southwest region of the United States is not that important here, said Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes private alternatives to government regulation.

Spend the money “on New Mexico, Arizona or California,” Mrs. Ridenour said. “Let’s talk about traffic in Washington.”

She called the conservation message admirable, but said instead of people going into classrooms with messages about water shortages, children should be learning the fundamentals of science, including those having to do with water resources.

Mrs. Ridenour added that children should be taught to look critically at issues such as the Endangered Species Act, which she said prohibits the use of some bodies of water for consumption and creates an “artificial shortage” of water resources.

Several of the 100 ways suggested for saving water do not appear to be measures people would take every day, Mrs. Ridenour said, adding that she would pare the list to about five of the most important ways to conserve.

“One hundred ways is too many, because we’ll never remember that many,” she said.

Mr. Shell conceded that not everyone would catch on and use all of the tips, but the simple messages and practical ways for saving water that are being promoted may appeal to many households and businesses.

“Some people will change their ways immediately, some will take awhile,” he said. “We’re not going to get everybody.”

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