What’s up with McAlester’s Waterlines?

McAlester’s infrastructure has issues. Local issues – state issues – national issues. Roads, bridges, streets, stormwater systems, sewer plants, and water utilities are aging and in many places there isn’t enough funding for governments to make necessary repairs until it’s an emergency. McAlester has experienced this a few times lately, particularly with the water lines.  It is an opportunity to talk about how to conserve water (and maybe a little about changing habits and prepping).

When there’s a water outage and officials call for water conservation…

stop and think critically about your use. Sometimes, every drop someone uses in North Town delays a drop making it to the south side of town and can affect important institutions such as the hospital or nursing homes. When asked to conserve water, you can…

Skip the Shower  – You can probably make it longer than you think and when things get desperate, fill a bucket with water, heat some of it in the kettle or microwave, and take a good ole fashioned sponge bath. You’ll still be cleaner than you were.

Leave the Dirty Clothes and Dishes – It’s almost guaranteed the average McAlesterite has enough extra clothes and stuff hiding away to cope for a few extra days without running the washing machine. Besides, who doesn’t want this excuse to put off laundry and dishes? (You do get a pass on underwear and a few dishes, if you need it. The added benefit of digging to the back of the closet or bottom of the drawers: you’ll end up purging as you rediscover what you don’t enjoy owning.)

If it’s Yellow, Let it Mellow – Don’t flush the toilet when it isn’t necessary. Even if you have water saved in the bathtub or other containers for this purpose, you should only flush it down if it’s brown.

Drink Less Water – I know this is crazy considering how important it is to stay hydrated, but at least skip some of your daily 4 litters.

Taking action to reduce water consumption daily can matter in big ways. According to the United State Environmental Protection Agency, only 1% of water on Earth is consumable. This means that households can take minor steps to make big differences. Try thinking about how your family uses your water and how it compares with the average American household.

Here are a few things you can do every day, regardless of whether the infrastructure has held up or not…

Install a Rain Barrel – During a water outage, flushing your toilet a few times with the water you’ve captured is a nice luxury. The rest of the time, it’s a free way to water your flower garden.

Turn off the Faucet. – Even when standing in front of it, the faucet turns on and off. Don’t run the water while you brush your teeth or wash your hands. It doesn’t serve any purpose letting water flow down the drain while you scrub your teeth or hands. (While we’re at it, have you considered how many paper towels you’re using in public restrooms these days? Try one less and save some paper.)

Wash Full Loads –  Don’t wash a partial load of anything, be it dishes or clothes. Fill up those machines (or sinks) to their maximum capacity to get the most out of your water (and electricity too!)

So far, McAlester has experienced small inconveniences.

A few things to remember about recent events…

We’re Oklahomans – Southeastern Oklahomans, at that. We’re tough in the face of struggle and as many of us remember from the early ice storms, sometimes it is just up to us to be prepared. Compared to a real disaster, we haven’t even hit the radar. Not having running water causes numerous issues in the households and businesses of our city, but our few days or hours don’t compare with the weeks, months, and even years that we could suffer if an event of true destruction were to happen to our city.

Ready.gov has some great tips.

During outages, If you have extra water, check on elderly family members and those with children. Are you a prepper and proud? Share your cleverness and tell the story of your household’s ingenious ways of coping. You’ll inspire someone else to be better prepared for problems that arise without notice. After all, we get by with a little help from our friends, right?

Look to the Helpers – Over the last month (years?!), a small army of McAlester employees have been spending their weekdays, and sometimes weekends, tracking down parts, digging holes, and trying to repair numerous problems. Often, when one thing is fixed, another thing breaks. They are doing rough, dirty, tiring work. We also owe some respect to the leaders trying to solve these big issues, too. The city’s budget problems are complex – so are the state’s – so are the nation’s.

 We Take Water for Granted – Hopefully after our experiences we have a better grasp of the blessings and luxuries we enjoy. We can all get by on less water than we use and if you’re prepared, even a little, you can get by for a few days without it affecting anything more than your standard of convenience.

McAlester Deserves Investment – The water lines and treatment plant belong to the citizens of McAlester. We own them and we must ensure their maintenance and replacement. We are also responsible for the streets, sewage, sidewalks, stormwater, trash, recycling, and more. We deserve a clean, healthy, and beautiful community and the voters of McAlester will face decisions over funding of the City’s infrastructure and institutions in the next year. They will also elect new council members, school board members, and more. It is up to every McAlesterite to make it to the polls to cast their votes. Visit the Oklahoma Election Board website to sign up for election notifications and make sure you’re voter registration is up-to- date.