Water has been a big part of life in Nashville for the past few days. First, an overwhelming amount of it fell from the skies this past weekend; an "overwhelming amount" being more than a quarter of our annual rainfall (and Nashville typically doesn't slouch in this category). Second, the water that fell from the sky ended up on the ground and wanted to travel as quickly as possibly to sea level, causing flooding and high water in minor creeks, runoffs, and backyards. Third, most of the water ended up in the Cumberland River, which swelled beyond what anyone imagined it could from some spring rain storms.
That is where we find ourselves now, inundated with water in the the most inconvenient places. The lower part of downtown is swamped, the local beer distributors' warehouses are out of reach, the piranhas from Opry Mills are loose in the Cumberland, and the Grand Ole Opry was displaced. (Not to mention many lives lost, thousands of homes flooded, vehicles destroyed, businesses wounded.) Where we don't have water, supposedly, is in the city's reserve tanks. One of the biggest stories locally is the water shortage. One of the water treatment plants is down, so it is understandable that the city, which wants to clean itself up from a nasty flood, is close to running short on water.
The messages from the city are to conserve water by not taking showers unless absolutely necessary, to leave those stacks of dishes in the sink or dishwasher until we get the go-ahead that there's enough water to spare to clean them, to get through our closets or buy new underwear instead of running a clothes washer. Only essential water use. The good citizen posts pictures to twitter showing his dirty dishes. People go to work in their jeans and t-shirt, proud of their civic efforts. (They should be proud.) It is a tough time, and everyone should do their part to help out the community and conserve for where the water is really needed.
But you know where it isn't needed? At that fancy restaurant which uses enough water washing dishes in a night to shower a hundred people. Or the sidewalk in front of the Schermerhorn where firemen were seen earlier today washing mud off of the sidewalks. Or in the local breweries which use close to ten times the amount of actual beer produced in water during the brewing process. What is essential about any of these businesses or their water use? I would argue that my morning shower is more essential than my afternoon beer and having clean dishes to cook with are more important than my trip to a restaurant.
I am doing my part. I am following the prescribed measures to conserve water, and everyone I know in Nashville is doing the same. If the reserves aren't building fast enough, I don't think it is a problem at homes. I think it is a problem with the biggest users of that water.
We are Nashville. Let's see if the businesses are.