Thursday, April 26, 2007

Conserving Water

To celebrate Earth day and to conserve water during South Florida’s drought, my wife announced the other day that we would be taking Navy showers in the future. Worried that large men in bell-bottoms would be hanging out in my bathroom, my wife assured me that a Navy shower is a unique method to conserve water.

To take a navy shower, you turn the water off while you are soaping up. My wife took this idea one step further by placing several buckets in the shower stall to soak up the excess water during our showers. Once the buckets are filled, the extra water would be used to irrigate flowers, plants and trees in the yard. My wife’s simple bucket brigade and the navy showers will help preserve water, at least in a small way, until the rainy season begins in late May.

Small efforts often have big results, which is a common theme in this year’s 2007 Environmental Awards announced last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The annual awards commemorate Earth Day by recognizing individuals and organizations that volunteer their time to help NOAA carry out its mission. NOAA established the Environmental Hero awards in 1995, and agency employees submit nominations.

“There are thousands of volunteers who give their time to help NOAA do its work, and the NOAA Environmental Hero award is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to some individuals and organizations each year,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher. “Each year, I am impressed by the efforts of the Environmental Heroes, who serve as inspirations to us all.”

A new category was introduced this year, the Long-Time Achievement Award, to periodically honor NOAA-related accomplishments. Jack H. Elrod, Jr. the creator of the Mark Trail cartoon strip was the inaugural winner for showing his readers the dangers of tsunamis, the treasures of the ocean and mysteries still to be solved about our planet.

Nolan Doesken of Fort Collins, Colorado was honored for organizing a network of citizen volunteers to measure and report precipitation from their homes following a flash flood that killed five people in Fort Collins in 1997. Starting with a few volunteers in 1998, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network involves thousands of volunteers in 17 states, and enhances the forecasting and warning capabilities of the NOAA National Weather Service.

Daryl Herzmann set up a similar program in Iowa when he created the Iowa Environmental Mesonet, a “one-stop-shopping” Web site for current atmospheric and hydrological observations, weather, roadway pavement data, agricultural soil information and climatology.

Not every Environmental Hero has to be an American. For example, one of the winners this year is third-generation lighthouse keeper Oskar J. Sigurdsson, of Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. Oskar has been making atmospheric measurements of carbon dioxide and other trace-gas measurements at the Storhofdi Lighthouse for the past 15 years.

Bruce Popham of Marathon is a champion of the Key West marine environment, leading volunteer efforts to protect the waters around the Keys, while Charlie Campbell of San Angelo, Texas helped National Weather Service weather warnings reach isolated areas of West Texas.

All of these environmental heroes began with small efforts that ended up producing big results.

Posted at 3:01 PM