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Neighbors must help through drought

Free access to drinking water this winter is not the only help available to those facing drought problems, county emergency managers said.

Monday, September 06, 1999

Free access to drinking water this winter is not the only help available to those facing drought problems, county emergency managers said.

The new Water Management Task Force is recommending a neighbor-helping-neighbor campaign, Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency deputy director Mike Boster said.

"We were just sort of discussing various needs the drought has brought about," Boster said. "A lot of people are in areas where they are close to people with water and those people might be family and friends."

If they can share water with their neighbors, then they can pick up slack in this time of need, too, he said.

Trustees, EMA staff, county commissioners, firefighters, the Red Cross, grant writers, ham radio operators, farming groups and local water companies have been meeting since August as the county’s Water Management Task Force.

Dry weather depleted well water supplies in most northern townships this summer and sent the government scrambling to fill the void with more than 10,000 gallons of donated water, Boster said.

That water supply is dwindling and the task force is trying to develop long-term and short-term solutions, he said.

The short-term plan centers on organizing locations and manpower to give out public drinking water at new grant-funded frost-free taps in at least 10 different locations – mostly township halls or fire stations, Boster said.

In the meantime, the EMA is counting on residents to share what they can.

"If you don’t know if your neighbor needs help, it’s probably because they won’t ask," Boster said.

People should make an effort to reach out, but they need to make sure they have plenty of water to share first, he said.

"When the needs become known, I feel like a lot of people will open up their hearts and use their hands to help," Boster said. "And we should encourage people to do that.

"During times like this, people go the extra mile anyway, especially when needs are really legitimate."

Public water service has made many people forget just how difficult it can be when you are without, he added.

Washing clothes, taking baths and flushing toilets are just a few of the water needs, other than drinking.

"The first thing we might do is contact schools and see if that (lack of bath and wash water) is affecting a lot of people and encourage them to open up like a locker room or shower facility," Boster said.

Or neighbors could help families without water wash a load of clothes once in a while, or give them a couple of gallons of drinking water each week, he said.

"We’re not looking to correct everybody’s problem to the maximum," Boster added. "We would just like to see everybody give a little extra if they can."

"The more people involved in the whole process, the more need we’ll be able to meet."