The Island’s most precious commodity

Nancy Gould-Hilliard
Around the Island

No, not diamonds, gold, silver, titanium, radium, youth or fame. On an Island surrounded by it, we know well enough that it is water, the essence of life.

On March 22, World Water Day, we’re told to go straight to our bathrooms. If it’s time to replace a toilet, consider a 1.6 gallon-per-flush model (over the 5-gpf version) and install 1.0 gallon-per-minute faucet aerators in showers and sinks. These measures could save up to 20 percent in water use.

Next - our dirt. We’re asked to “Xeriscape” our yards with water-wise plants and mulches. Buy a rain barrel from Seattle Park Department; amend planting soil with moisture saver; and, if installing sprinklers, consider moisture sensors and weather forecasting connections.

Once the spring rains subside, “a lawn needs only an inch of water at any one time, and just three times a week,” says Suzanne Reidell, MI utility supervisor.

“Mercer Island is one of the smallest purveyors in Seattle Public Utilities (water consortium), yet uses the greatest amount of water, particularly during summer,” she says. Seattle Public Utilities supplies our domestic water, which comes from the Cedar River Watershed.

While our conservation helps manage local supplies, it doesn’t address worldwide water scarcity, where almost 1.1 billion people are without adequate access to water and 2.4 billion without adequate sanitation.

“I don’t see the global water crisis as a single issue,” says Eva Agrawal, who with her husband, Yogi, direct Vishal Himalaya Foundation (VHF), which supports communities in India. Rather, multiple problems arise from how water is managed, distributed and sanitized, she adds. For example in Akola, India, (where VHF has helped develop a dam) water scarcity is serious because the region is semi-arid and must depend upon the monsoon rains. Lack of resources and know-how thwart efficient water distribution there.

“Mercer Island water distribution is efficient, yet we can be careless consumers,” she says. “While conserving our water won’t affect the water table in India, we certainly can become role models worldwide - especially in the Western world, which uses about 10 times more water than people in poor countries.”

Mercer Island learned how vulnerable it is during recent power blackouts, emphasizing the importance of the city’s emergency preparedness plan. On the water front, test drilling down 600-feet is still in progress at Rotary Park for an emergency well.

Cellar dwellers

On stronger drinks — Cellar 46¡, a new wine shop, bar and personal, temperature controlled wine-storage units opens this weekend in the Mercer Building at 7650 S.E. 27th St. Wine tastings, hors d’oeuvres, bottle signings and live entertainment are planned. Owners, Ryan Allison and Chris Heller say the shop’s name comes from Washington state’s primary grape-growing region on Latitude 46-degrees North, the same as France’s famed Bordeaux and Burgundy wine regions.

Cellar 46¡ is the brainchild of Allison, a Mercer Island native and Northwest wine aficionado. After a successful internet-start up, he turned his passion for wine into a career. In 2002, he had purchased the online wine retail site, which he still runs today.

Webbed feet

Last week, two longtime Island families welcomed a fourth “water baby” to their family: Anderson Simpson. This 7 pound-12 ounce, 20-inch son of Chris Simpson and Laura Anderson Simpson joins brothers Riley, Parker and sister Taylor. Proud grandmas are Jacqui Simpson Yerabek and Eleanor Anderson. Chris manages the aquatic programs at Mercer Island Country Club, where all the Simpson kids belong to the swim team. Anderson undoubtedly will become its youngest member, once he gets his water wings.

Signs of Spring

Paul West, Island arborist, invites Islanders to join volunteers aided by Earth Corps from 9 a.m. to noon March 31 for the annual spring cleanup at Ellis Pond on 90th S.E. and S.E. 46th. This spring-fed inland pond is the only year-round habitat for many bird and animal species here. They are enjoying some of the new plantings from last fall. Watch for hatching pollywogs.

Awakening pond life is just one of the many signs of spring, which became official yesterday. Hummingbirds have returned to residents’ nectar feeders. Fiddlehead ferns and the incorrigible horse tails are thrusting up their heads. The school district’s show of cherry and plum blossoms is in full color. Even the signage around City Hall has been power-washed back to its fluorescent pink.

I can smell baseball season just around the corner.
E-mail Nancy Hilliard at

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates