Now that Austin is under Stage 2 Watering Restrictions, Austinites who see water waste are encouraged to call 311 to report it.
But should I?
Should I, as a concerned citizen, expose my fellow citizen to a fine of upwards of $400? Or should I be more concerned for the entire community (and thus more of my fellow citizens) and its water supply? Would I be considered a jerk for narking on a neighbor, or would I be a jerk for letting my neighbor's behavior slide so as not to put him in what could be a bad situation in this economy? Or both?
I mean, it's one thing to see your neighbor running a sprinkler and rue the fact that he's run it for the past hour, but it's another thing entirely to cause your neighbor to lose what could potentially be a good percentage of his income for the month. And yet, if too many people get away with this waste of water, then Lakes Travis and Buchanan, and, hence, the Austin Water Utility, will not be able to keep up with the demand.
Another thought to consider is whether residents are familiar with the current ordinance. At this point, I don't know how residents couldn't be familiar with it. It's been trumpeted on all news stations and mentioned in the paper, and even if someone doesn't watch local stations, they should have received, as the Snowed family did (several times, until we answered) notification by phone of the restrictions. (Side note: if you see the number 999-911-9999 on your Caller ID, it is an official notification from local authorities in many US communities. Take the call.) At this point, I am forced to conclude that Austin residents must know about this by now.
Some soul searching might be required to answer the question of whether to report others for wasting water, but for myself, I have to believe that the better choice is to make the call and get the waste stopped. If it makes me a jerk, so be it.
As you may have guessed, I addressed this question because I have observed houses with automatic sprinklers running this week. The first one, on Monday morning, I did not report, though I thought about it; I did not remember the address. The second one, yesterday, I did report. I don't feel great about it, but I think I have done the right thing.