Am I a ‘drought shamer?’

Photo shot on Wednesday, a no-watering day for everyone in Stockton.

There’s an interesting piece today on “drought shaming” — the practice of self-deputized water cops who take video of every little dribble from some schmuck’s front yard and gleefully post it to YouTube.

There’s even an app. Gotcha!

I read the story with some disdain, only to recall that last night I took a photo of illegal watering at Stagg High School and immediately posted it to Twitter. Not only was irrigation taking place on a Wednesday, when all watering within city limits is illegal, but it was also happening within 48 hours of measurable rainfall. No-nos, both of those.

I took similar pictures on Saturday of more wrong-day watering outside the Grupe office building at March Lane and Brookside Road. (Where, incidentally, the sprinklers were running again last night.)

So… am I a drought shamer?

Don’t answer that. Here’s my own take:

No, I’m not a drought shamer. I am, however, interested in establishing some reasonable level of accountability.

First, I didn’t go out and start posting photos 15 minutes after the Stockton City Council voted to restrict watering to certain days of the week. I could have, but I didn’t. It’s only been a couple of weeks. People need some time to soak this up, so to speak.

Second, when I do post photos they’re not usually of private yards or homes. And I don’t post addresses. After all, there may be circumstances I’m not aware of. I heard recently, for example, that a local family whose sprinklers were running in the middle of the day had just purchased their house; they were having trouble figuring out the automatic watering system.

No shame there.

Third, it’s possible some are still unaware of the new rules. The Stockton Municipal Utilities Department bill that I received last night included some great water conservation tips, but no mention of the new and unprecedented day-of-the-week restrictions passed in late May.

For a while, at least, it seems citizens should continue to get the benefit of the doubt.

I have somewhat less tolerance for large agencies, organizations or businesses that are should be role models for the community. Their grace period should be a bit shorter, IMHO.

In the end, citizen reports made in a reasonable manner should have a part to play this summer. If we don’t keep an eye on each other, then who will? The city of Stockton responds to water-waste complaints but is not increasing enforcement (though some other communities, like Manteca, have added new patrols).

Bottom line: There’s no shame in trying to be a good citizen.

As a side note: Stockton Unified School District spokeswoman Dianne Barth said the district has been a “good steward,” saving 19 percent on water usage last year and 30 to 40 percent so far this year. The district didn’t turn on its sprinklers until mid-May, she said.

Watering at Stagg is automatic, and district staff were looking into what happened on Wednesday.

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