Read­ers send widow a flood of aid

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - STEVE LOPEZ

The great state of Cal­i­for­nia re­mains nearly as dry as an In­ter­state 5 tum­ble­weed, but the drought has cometo a glo­ri­ous end un­der the roof of 71-year-old widow Doris Till­man of South Los An­ge­les.

The Scrip­ture-quot­ing Till­man en­dured nine months with­out run­ning wa­ter af­ter she lost a job, fell be­hind in her pay­ments and had her ser­vice cut off by the Los An­ge­les Depart­ment of Wa­ter and Power.

But now the wa­ter is flow­ing again, thanks to the gen­eros­ity of read­ers who saw Till­man’s story and sent dona­tions to her. Adown pay­ment on the un­paid bal­ance did the trick, and DWP is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Till­man’s claim that her high wa­ter bills were partly due to rot­ting pipes that cost her $7,000 to fix.

“The first thing I did was take a bath,” said Till­man, who had re­sorted to sponge baths and tak­ing yoga and swim­ming classes so she could use the shower fa­cil­i­ties.

“Iwas so re­laxed and so com­fort­able, I felt my­self go­ing to sleep,” added Till--

man, who cut the bath short fear­ing she’d nod off and drown, and my fol­low-up col­umn would have to be an obit­u­ary.

Till­man had re­cently strained her back lug­ging 5gal­lon jugs of wa­ter through her house for cooking and clean­ing, so the good Sa­mar­i­tans brought wel­come re­lief.

“Oh my gosh, it’s un­be­liev­able,” said Till­man dur­ing one of my vis­its to de­liver dona­tions. “For peo­ple to be so touched by some­one else’s plight and want to help, that’s amaz­ing.”

Two of those peo­ple, Tom and Betsy Cole­man of the Pa­los Verdes Penin­sula, sent a do­na­tion and an ob­ser­va­tion. They had stud­ied their own wa­ter bill and determined that their cost forwater was less than one cent per gal­lon. (DWP puts the first-tier cost at six-tenths of a penny.) So the Cole­mans en­cour­aged Mrs. Till­man to fill her jugs at a neigh­bor’s home rather than pay $1.25, or 25 cents a gal­lon, at the vend­ing ma­chine she’d been us­ing.

Mrs. Till­man told me she had tried that very thing, but a neigh­bor wasn’t very co­op­er­a­tive, and she didn’t want to im­pose on oth­ers. So she kept re­fin­ing her con­ser­va­tion meth­ods, learn­ing how to get by on just un­der50 gal­lons aweek, and vow­ing never to waste a drop of wa­ter if her ser­vice­was re­stored.

The Cole­mans do their own part to con­serve. Even though wa­ter is cheap — un­less DWP screws up your bill, as it has for many cus­tomers — the Cole­mans treat it like ev­ery drop is pre­cious, very much aware of the drought and the fact that mil­lions of peo­ple in the world have no ac­cess to safe run­ning wa­ter.

“My hus­band and I are very, very wa­ter con­scious. He puts huge trash bar­rels out when it rains,” said Betsy, who uses re­cy­cled wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion and flush­ing toi­lets. “We’ve been re­cy­cle con­scious for all our mar­ried lives, and we’ve been mar­ried 53 years. ... We feel like that’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity as peo­ple.”

There may soon be even more of a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive to con­serve, too. The DWP is talk­ing about rais­ing rates to pay for the re­pair of rup­tur­ing wa­ter lines and other needs, and greater forces in Cal­i­for­nia and be­yond might also jack up the cost ofwa­ter.

“To me, it’s in­evitable in a world with a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion that we’re go­ing to have to start think­ing about wa­ter more and more the way we look at ev­ery other good — that it’s a valu­able com­mod­ity and we need to pay more for it,” said Frank Wo­lak, pro­fes­sor of com­mod­ity price stud­ies at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity.

If you’re look­ing for ways to beat higher costs and get by on less wa­ter, check out Grey­wa­terAc­tion.org for tips on how to green your house.

“We use the same qual­ity wa­ter for ev­ery­thing, and that doesn’t make any sense,” said Grey­wa­ter’s Laura Allen.

She’s right. We use the same highly pu­ri­fied wa­ter to drink, flush the toi­let, wash the car and wa­ter the bougainvil­lea. Allen gave one ex­am­ple of how to avoid that. For about $200, she said, and with­out tak­ing out per­mits, a home­owner can legally rig a sys­temthat uses wash­ing ma­chine wa­ter to ir­ri­gate a gar­den with a drip line in­stead of let­ting all that wa­ter go down the drain.

But don’t try this if you don’t know what you’re do­ing. Marty Adams of DWP said he’s all for tak­ing a bucket into the shower and then us­ing it to wa­ter the gar­den, but when you mess with plumb­ing, you have to make sure non-potable wa­ter doesn’t get sucked into the potable wa­ter lines and present a health haz­ard.

Doris Till­man, whose mis­for­tune has turned her into an ac­ci­den­tal author­ity on con­ser­va­tion, shared a few point­ers:

Af­ter boil­ing an egg, add bleach and soap to the wa­ter and­make your own clean­ing agent.

Use a dish pan in­stead of fill­ing the sink, and pre-clean dishes and cook­ware with tow­els so food par­ti­cles don’t dirty the pan. Then use the wa­ter again in the gar­den.

If youmake pasta or boil pota­toes, re­use the wa­ter for steam­ing veg­eta­bles, and then re­use it again for wa­ter­ing plants.

Mrs. Till­man, a vol­un­teer at her church, is still try­ing to get a cloth­ing and crafts busi­ness es­tab­lished to keep up with her bills. Read­ers who have asked me about pur­chas­ing goods can con­tact her at dorisjtill­man596@gmail.com.

She’ll be busy for a while, though, mak­ing shoul­der sling wa­ter bot­tle car­ri­ers for all the read­ers who sent her a do­na­tion.

“That’s what I’m go­ing to do,” she said. “A ‘thank you’ is not enough. It’s just not enough.”

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

AF­TER NINE MONTHS WITH­OUT, Doris Till­man has run­ning wa­ter again thanks to dona­tions from read­ers. “For peo­ple to be so touched by some­one else’s plight and want to help, that’s amaz­ing,” she said.

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