Dry wit

Published: Saturday 31 August 2002

Drought couture (Credit: Sukle Advertising)'Only wash the stinky parts' and 'Instead of washing clothes, don't wear any'.

This isn't graffiti scribbled on the wall of a seedy joint in the us. They are ad slogans exhorting Denver residents to curb water use. The rationale? Desperate situations warrant drastic measures. Because not just Denver, 26 us states are facing the century's worst drought.

According to a recent survey by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, exceptional drought, which occurs once or twice in a century, has been found to have affected Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

There is serious concern over the dry spell. Denver's water resources, serving 1.1 million consumers, reached rock bottom in July. Aurora's reservoirs are at 48 per cent of the normal capacity compared to 81 per cent during the corresponding period last year.

The crisis has been fanned by the major wildfire that singed areas southwest of Denver earlier this year. As a result of the blaze, sediment and ash have settled on the mountain slopes. It is feared that they have also seeped into Cheesman Reservoir, the key to the city's water supply. To dilute the sediment, efforts are being made to divert water from the reservoir.

A major cause of worry for Denver's water managers is that the drought may extend to 2003 and beyond. Amid such apprehensions, residents are being urged to make a concerted attempt to conserve water. Around 12 cities have imposed mandatory water consumption restrictions, while others have voluntary curbs in place. Denver, Boulder and Aurora have vigilant water cops on a constant lookout for violators. Las Vegas and Albuquerque have a 'wasted water hotline' where violators can be reported.

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