For a good deal longer than my 22 years in residential property management, I have maintained an interest in weather conditions, reservoir levels, and periodic drought emergencies. Originally, my concern was as an individual consumer not as a manager, but the focus shifted when my responsibility changed over the past 20 years or so.
Time and technology have substantially altered the information available concerning droughts and weather patterns. Before the common use of global positioning weather satellites, computer information on deep-sea currents, and long-range forecasts of jet stream activity, drought emergencies took on a more local flavor and were dealt with by managers and residents alike. Until recently, it was rare to have managers find themselves in a position to receive information about the movement of deep sea currents; the appearance and impact of periodic El Ninos and La Ninas; continued disappearance of the earth's ozone layer; rapid melting of a section of the Antarctic ice shelf the size of Rhode Island; clear water at the North Pole in the dead of winter; and many other often conflicting and inconsistent data.
During periodic dry spells, forecasts were reasonably accurate at projecting when a probable shift in the jet stream would be likely to bring relief over a short-term period of a few weeks or months. It was usually a given during those times that low reservoir levels, due to below-normal fall, winter, and spring rainfall, would frequently be cured by the anticipated snow melting in the spring and early summer. The dramatic decline over the last decade or so in annual snowfall totals, at least in the northeastern United States, has changed that factor, as well.
Improved technology, however, has had very little impact on how we address the problem with our residential properties. Conservation continues to be a must; any potential area for water waste must be identified and cured; use of low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads is encouraged although not yet mandatory; and watering of gardens and landscaping must be restricted and limited to optimum hours in the morning and evening.
Only if there seems to be a permanent change in the fresh water supply will the methods of dealing with periodic droughts change. There is presently no indication that the northeast will soon turn into the dust bowl of the 1930s, but there are still dire predictions of significant long-term weather changes from many respected professionals. Much of the information we receive is confusing, if not contradictory, and since much of it is governed by the particular economic or political goals of the information source, it is very difficult to know what should be taken at face value. One paradoxical but indisputable fact is that if there is continued significant global warming and melting of the world's ice caps, the result will not be subtropics extending from pole to pole as one might expect, but rather another ice age.
There is little new or different that individual residents or managers can do as water levels rise and fall. We are all obligated both by law and common sense to follow whatever conservation techniques we can, yet, at the same time, it is important to maintain a heightened awareness of possible long-term changes and methods that may be needed to deal with more severe and prolonged droughts.
Donald Levy is director of management at Lawrence Properties.