Seeing the dividends

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By Optic Editorial Board

Most lawns around town are either yellow, or else the grass is completely gone. Our dreary yards are a testament to the severe drought this area has suffered over the last several years.

The city has been in Stage IV water restrictions for more than two years, meaning that use of potable water to irrigate lawns and outdoor plants is prohibited. Those restrictions have paid off. According to the city, we currently use 1.4 million gallons of water a day, about a million gallons less than we were using in 2011.

Mayor Alfonso Ortiz praised the city’s water customers last week for their conservation efforts, and we echo that praise.

With all the dead lawns around town, it’s a treat to see lush grass at many of the city parks and other green spaces around town. Lincoln Park,  Carnegie Park and Plaza Park look great, considering the situation. The golf course is starting to turn green.

And the fact that none of our drinking water is being used to water them is worthy of even more praise. If you see a green space in town, chances are that it’s due to effluent or treated wastewater.

Credit for that goes to both current and past city administrations. Former city utilities director Richard Trujillo played a huge role in getting the city to invest in an effluent irrigation system in the first place because he realized that it didn’t make sense for the city to be using its precious drinking water to irrigate grass. There was quite a bit of debate about whether the city should go down that road at the time, but, in the end, the Council greenlighted the project, and we’re seeing the dividends all these years later.

The city’s current governing body and administration also deserves credit for expanding the program over the last several years. Effluent lines have recently been extended to Plaza and Rodriguez Parks. And the city has even received permission to sell effluent to residents to help them preserve what is left of the vegetation in their yards.

We all miss our lawns, but it’s great to see that there are some green spaces around town. And that’s thanks to the foresight of previous and current city administrations.

Of course, not everyone is happy with the situation. The more effluent that is being used on city parks and ball fields, the less that’s available to put back into the river for agricultural uses. It just illustrates the difficult choices that are having to be made as we all try to get through this prolonged drought.