Quantity and quality

Water. Even though we inhabit an island surrounded by it, we probably don't think about it too much. Even Islanders need to be reminded of how precious and finite a resource clean water is for consumption and recreation. Along with the public agencies that monitor water, we all need to be stewards of this critical resource.

The City of Mercer Island, for its part, has a water conservation program called Be Responsible.

Its goal is to reduce summer water consumption on the Island -- historically one of the region's biggest users per capita -- by 10 percent annually.

Another goal is to reduce indoor consumption by reinforcing the need for conservation and promoting the use of low-volume showerheads, and water-efficient toilets and washing machines. The savings in the water bill will more than pay for the upfront costs of the new appliances over time.

Water conservation is often very simple, requiring just turning off faucets and reducing outdoor watering. It is also necessary, especially since the governor issued a drought advisory earlier this year after a dry winter left mountain snowpack low.

In addition to sending reminders to residents to conserve, the city charges a penalty during the peak summer months to those who use a high amount of water. That money is used to fund conservation efforts.

The city sets a good example by limiting its own water use. Last month the Parks and Recreation Department issued a''Phase One Water Advisory,'' meaning it will use 10 percent less water to irrigate the parks and fields it maintains. (Fields will be irrigated enough for safe play conditions and to protect the community's financial investment in the turf.)

The city, along with Seattle Public Utilities, through which the Island gets its water, recently issued its water quality report for 2004. The report indicates that all water delivered through the Cedar River watershed and on the Island exceeds standards. The report is a reminder to consumers not to be complacent about our water and to be responsible in conserving it and keeping it clean.

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