A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

No harm done

Aug 24, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

Riverton was right to warn citizens of water shortage, even if it didn't pan out

Riverton public services director Bill Urbigkit was good-natured about it last week when he told city council members and the public that the long-feared water shortage in Riverton hadn't come to pass.

He even compared himself to Chicken Little, the fictional character who proclaimed repeatedly that the sky was falling until, finally, no one believed him.

No harm done.

The city did nothing wrong in issuing its water conservation warning a couple of months ago. Conditions looked perfect for a water crisis, and it was the city's job to make us aware of it and to consider ways to lessen the damage.

So it was suggested, strongly, that city water users cut back on lawn watering for the summer. Many did just that, and there is a noticeable brown, dry look to lots of front lawns at both homes and businesses.

Last week, however, Urbigkit acknowledged that a severe water shortage was no longer anticipated. We're in the final third of August now, and the daylight hours are shortening, the temperatures cooling. This is still summer, but the demands on the municipal water system simply aren't so great any more.

Just about everyone considers himself an expert in how the city ought to handle its business, so perhaps city leaders are in for a bit of ribbing about being overly cautious concerning water, but there weren't many skeptics at the time. And who's to say that the warning early in the season didn't help the situation? Very few of us were wasting water, and that very well could have stretched the supply into this time of summer when there is less worry.

The city was using the best information it had. Given the scorchingly hot weather we suffered through in May and June, few could have argued with warning about a water shortage. And it wasn't only our municipal officials who sounded the alarm. Just about every Fremont County irrigator had a glum prediction as well.

Often it's useful to consider the alternative in a given situation that didn't pan out as predicted. So, suppose all the signs had been there, but no one said anything about conserving water until it was too late. Suppose the first thing we knew of a water problem, was an order from the city to start rationing it? Then, rest assured, all the self-appointed experts on city government would have been out for blood.

We've dodged the drought bullet for the summer, at least in terms of the municipal water supply. There's still time to get the replacements looking great for Labor Day. In the end, let's be grateful the sky didn't fall, rather than complain about being warned that it might.

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