Garland's 12th Annual Neighborhood Summit.

Today I attended Garland’s 12th annual neighborhood Summit—an event where people of Garland get together and talk of neighborhood problems and solutions and celebrate successes over the past year that lead our community closer to the realization of our vision of a more sustainable and healthy Garland.  This engaging interactive annual event offers the opportunity to explore trends and opportunities that will help Garland residents to fully own and participate in the reality of a better, more sustainable and more beautiful Garland.

We need to stop waiting for someone to save us and start saving ourselves with our own solutions.

Once again I was reminded of the importance and responsibility we have as individuals to talk with one another and to come up with solutions for the environmental issues that face our communities.  These solutions to our problems will not be coming from a one-size-fits-all national level.  These solutions will not even be coming from a one-size-fits-all state level, especially for states the size of Texas.  For example, an environmental solution that might fit El Paso, may not work here in Garland.

Innovative solutions and new directions toward more sustainable lifestyles will arise at the local level.  In fact, many of these solutions will arise at neighborhood and individual resident levels.  It’s not the “experts” who are going to save us and our environment.  In fact, we need to stop listening to some experts before they completely do us in.  It is ordinary citizens who will lead the way to innovations and solutions that work.  We have this capability to effect workable solutions because we are not invested and indoctrinated in the ineffective top-down solutions that are currently being applied.  We are the ones to ask “why? “, and more importantly, “why not?”   For lack of a better analogy, we all must become more like the little child in the fable of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” who pointed out the truth that the emperor was naked.

The large, top-down corporate industrial ways of managing our resources—particularly our food and water—have largely failed us.  Instead of “saving us”, these modern industrial models and methods have in many instances made us more vulnerable to disasters than ever before.  We need to take the reins back and guide our communities in sane directions that serve us.  Together, as ordinary citizens, we can discover new and better solutions for our community but only if we start talking with one another.

One of the sessions I attended today was led by a presenter from the North Texas Municipal Water District.  The topic was water conservation and discussions of the drought as “the new norm.”  The speaker talked of an impending multimillion dollar build of yet another huge reservoir (as soon as 11 farmers who want to hold onto their land are dealt with).  Of course, this reservoir will be located miles away from Garland.  This solution of remotely locating the source is similar to the top-down corporate industrial management of our food system whereby most of the food must travel a distance of 1,500 miles to our supermarket shelves.  This is absurd--particularly when we can grow most of our food locally.

Instead of these types of solutions, we need to implement local solutions.  At least 50% of our food and water supply should and can be supplied from right within out local community.

Moral admonitions underlining the virtue of austerity and doing without are often brought into attempts to prop up continuance of failed top-down managed solutions.  For example, the presenter today suggested that we need to make wasting water as socially unacceptable as smoking as part of the solution.  In other words, instead of stepping outside the box and coming up with better solutions, let’s treat this problem as a behavioral issue.  Let’s “educate” people so they feel guilty enough to replace their lawns with crushed gravel and install drought-resistant plants in their yards.

Ironically, it’s often the people who come up with these solutions who themselves need lessons in behavior modification.  For example, almost immediately after suggesting that citizens be shamed into conserving water, the presenter mentioned that 166 million gallons of water are flushed down our stormwater drains every year.  By the way, this is water that would be perfectly good for watering our yards and flushing our toilets.  Yes at least 166 million gallons of water is wasted each year in our local area merely because of existing state laws and policies of our water officials.  And these are the same people who admonish us to conserve water.

I was shocked when I heard this.  The attitude of the speaker in regard to this waste seemed to me to be one of acceptance.  I base this judgment on the fact that I did not hear of any plans for correction—immediate or future.

A women in the audience spoke up and commented on the waste saying that she has a system at her home that conserved the condensation from her air conditioner that annually supplies most of the water for the plants in her garden.

Speaking of "the norm". . . .Flushing Millions of Gallons of  Usable Water Down the Stormwater Drains is the Norm, not the Exception in the State of Texas and it needs to stop.

Later this evening, still amazed at this waste, I did a little research.  I found that Lubbock, a city of 239,538, similar in size to Garland, annually flushes more than 9 million gallons out of its water mains and down the drain.  That is a lot of wasted water.  It is the equivalent of what 1,200 homes in Lubbock use in a month.

“A monthly flush to check a line’s chlorine level takes about 15 minutes and uses roughly 17,500 gallons of water, unless a second 15-minute flush is required. But a recent city project has significantly reduced its water loss.

Required by state law and regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, these flushes are to ensure the city’s water supply is safe to drink.

“The water can kill you if it isn’t right,” said RT Galmore, whose job it is to check the city’s dead-end water lines.”  SOURCE:  State Law Flushes 9 Million Gallons of Water Annually in Lubbock

NOTE: Someone perhaps needs to remind Mr. Galmore that while no one is suggesting that people should drink this water, there should be more than a few citizens standing up and suggesting that it be diverted and stored for use on gardens, lawns and other landscaped areas such as municipal parks.

Solutions are here now but they are not likely to arise from the the ranks of those who are vested in maintaining the status quo of "how it's always been done" or "how Washington does it" or even "how Austin does it."

The solution is not moral behavior modification of local residents so that we will wrap our minds around unacceptable and inherently wasteful solutions while continuing to tighten our belts and adjust our bootstraps.  Instead of continuing to adhere to what I would dub "a scarcity model", perhaps we would have more success if we approached our local environment as a "bountiful universe" that, when managed properly, will yield us all that we need to sustain us in prosperity and health.

There are solutions.  Currently Loving Garland Green has a project hanging in the wings waiting to see if it will get support from our local Parks and Recreation Department and our Water Department as well.  Our proposed project involves a technique called "rainwater harvesting."  A 1,200 square foot roof, given the current annual rainfall of  Garland, will yield 26,000 gallons of water annually.  We have done the preliminary calculations of a shed currently located on park property as well as a privately owned building located up hill from that shed.  These two buildings would yield us 100,000 gallons of water a year.  Combined with the annual rainfall on the garden, being able to store this water would be more that enough to supply all the annual water needs for the Garland Community Garden.  This project could serve as a model for the development of similar projects in our community.  We are waiting to hear from the City before approaching the private party regading our proposed project.

The issue with water availability from rainfall, even given our current drought, is our current inability to store rainwater that we might harvest from our roof tops and other sources such as from condensation.  The typical 55 gallon drums we have for rain barrels at many of our homes are not sufficient.  It might be possible to develop a water system to be used for  landscape purposes at a neighborhood level--perhaps a system where resident's rain barrels when full would flow into a neighborhood reservoir.

The problem that needs a solution is not that we don't have enough water, even given our drought conditions.  The problem is that we currently don't have a way to store it locally so that we may use it as we need it.  If we let go the belief that all the water to meet all the needs of our residents must be stored in one large reservoir located 20, 30, even a 100 miles from us, we might start designing some real solutions that work for us at the local level.

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