A Lesson To Be Learned From Bermuda



So, we got the promised monsoon right on time this year. Praise be!

In particular, the last several days have brought some torrential rain and some real "soakers." Like everyone else, I hope this brings the groundwater level up to "normal" (whatever that is).

However, when it rains bucketfuls around here, most of that water is lost to runoff. Flash floods are a way of life. We argue and fuss and fight over underground water and to my knowledge, do not lift a finger to find a way to capture and conserve the great amount of water that falls from the sky during monsoon season. Not long ago, enough water accumulated below Payson to fill up Lake Roosevelt. It all ran off from around these parts. Too bad. We could have used some.

Ever been to Bermuda? It's one of the most beautiful garden spots in the world. It's actually a little chain of coral islands bunched together in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. Off the coast of North Carolina, and far north of the Caribbean, it escapes most large tropical storms, which usually go either south or north of this archipelago. Once in a while, a bad hurricane will encroach, but they are rare. Rainfall is generally spread throughout the year with only a mild "rainy season" and extended dry periods. A normal year brings somewhere around 50 inches of total rainfall. This may seem like a lot to a place like Payson, which usually gets by on 20 to 30 inches a year.

Bermuda has about 20 square miles of habitable land and a population of more than 66,000 people. Tourism swells the population by several thousand much of the year, and places a huge demand on the fresh water supply. Yet, the land is lush, beautiful and there are seldom, if ever, water restrictions. One of the reasons is that rainwater is harvested and conserved stringently by every household and business.

Homes have limestone roofs that funnel rainwater into underground cisterns; the limestone acts as a partial purifier. Water used by the general public is recycled religiously. There are lakes and ponds everywhere, which act as catchments to hold water when it rains. You see, fresh water is a high priority there. Every drop of rainwater is precious, and every effort is made to capture and conserve it.

Here's a term I bet you haven't heard in a while: "rain barrel." This was a common term not so long ago (at least I still remember it, but of course, I remember dinosaurs). And here's a fact I'll bet most of you didn't know. It's against the law for Payson to capture and retain rainwater. In fact, it may be against the law to have a rain barrel. As far as I can determine, no one owns the rain as it falls from the sky, but once it hits the ground, it becomes the property of the Salt River Project. Some time ago, Payson sold off the rights to all runoff and cannot impede it in any way. How can this be, you ask? Well don't ask me. I wasn't here in those days. Apparently it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Where I live, we don't have a lot of flowers and plants, but my wife keeps a large clay pot outside to capture rainwater. She uses this to provide water for the indoor and outdoor plants we have. She calls this water conservation. I'll bet a lot of other people do the same thing.

If you do, beware! We might all get a knock on the door in the middle of the night from a SASRP (Secret Agent, Salt River Project). I don't know what the fine might be, but can you imagine the humiliation of being dragged into court and accused of "Stealing Run-Off"?

Here's a thought. Maybe instead of fussing with each other over underground water, maybe we could engage the folks at SRP in a discussion of ways to capture and hold some of the runoff during Monsoon. That's probably naive, but it sure seems like an awful lot of the precious stuff is wasted or causes damage, the way things are now. The folks in Bermuda could probably offer some tips.

These are just random thoughts from my old brain. I'm sure they aren't original, but it doesn't hurt to ask questions sometimes.

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