When Decatur started clamping down on water use a few weeks ago, I told Allison Petty, who covers the city of Decatur for the Herald & Review, we would soon be fielding complaints as restrictions became more severe.

Allison, who is fast becoming our expert on water, Lake Decatur, reserve supplies of water and the Mahomet Aquifer, now knows I wasn’t kidding.

We’ve received numerous phone calls and emails from people with all sorts of things to toss into the water discussion.

A lot of the initial discussion came from people talking about supplemental wells and alternate water sources. It had been a while since we had done a comprehensive story on those additional sources and, thanks to Allison’s story in the Tuesday, Aug. 14, newspaper, we have a good reading on what it takes to use water from sources other than Lake Decatur.

We also received a variety of comments in what I hope is a not-so-serious vein. Typical of that came from someone who wrote me wondering if there was a plastic dome over Decatur preventing rain from hitting the ground and keeping the temperatures hot.

Almost as disturbing as the water shortage is the zeal with which some people take in complaining about someone doing something with water they don’t think they should be doing.

We often get complaints about why someone is using water in a particular manner and whether it is legal. I am somewhat amazed I have yet to hear from someone who thinks their neighbor is using a 10-gallon bucket to water their prize tomatoes instead of the city-approved five-gallon vessels.

If people were this interested in Crime Stoppers, our crime rate would plummet.

I admit when I saw someone hand-washing their car with a bucket of water, I wondered if I should call 911 or the non-emergency police line. I didn’t do either because I figured someone else probably had already called.

Still, with the lack of rain and a steadily dropping lake level, there are people who think the city is over-hyping the situation.

All you have to do is take a look at Lake Decatur and see some of the areas that are dry now, but were covered with water just a few weeks ago. Look at the bottom of the dam along the bridge on U.S. Business 51 where Lake Decatur ends and the Sangamon River resumes its lazy path. Not only is it dry, but there is a healthy stand of grass and weeds growing there. Photographer Jim Bowling captured that image in our Sunday, Aug. 12, story on lake levels.

I have been in Decatur for 16 years and have seen Lake Decatur at varying levels. I have heard a lot of talk about the 1988 drought over the years and it’s turning out 2012 may be worse.

Some day, believe it or not, it will rain. The rain will be sufficient to restore the water table, replenish the Mahomet Aquifer and raise Lake Decatur to a normal pool level.

When that day comes, we can’t be content that it is again OK to wash cars, shave with the water running and take 45-minute showers. Decaturites have heard a lot of discussion about additional water for residents and the companies such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. that depend on the water as well as the companies that will locate here in the future and will need water.

The discussion about additional water is necessary. The only difference is this time the discussion must end only when an additional source of water for Decatur has been secured.


Managing Editor for the Herald & Review

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