Column: Water-wasting outlawed here, required in Idaho

As usual, I'm a little confused. In Carson City, we have a small army of water cops whose job is to make sure we're not wasting any of the precious stuff.

During the hottest spell a couple of weeks ago, they were out patrolling in the middle of the night. You might think this is dedication to the job, and the chance to nab some Midnight Sprinklers, but the truth is that it was too damn hot to work during the day.

They were out writing tickets to people who were letting water run down the gutter or watering on the wrong day. I support this - writing them up, that is - because I work pretty darn hard to make sure I'm watering on the right day, at the right times.

I was even thinking of becoming a water snitch, by gum, because if I have to water every other day then everybody should have to water every other day.

So, I've been paying pretty close attention to the whole water-wasting issue when I see a report out of Idaho the other day.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Two federal fire trucks carrying water to fight the huge wildfires in Montana's Bitterroot Valley were ticketed in Idaho for weight violations and forced to dump part of their load before being allowed to continue.

In fact, the story said, the trucks weighed about 36,000 and 38,000 pounds, when the weight limit is 34,000 pounds. But by the time they'd dumped out water, both trucks were about half-empty.

Or half-full.

Depending on how you look at it.

The way I look at it, if it's illegal in Carson City to waste water, then why are you required to waste water in Idaho? I don't know. That's why I'm in a constant state of confusion about these things.

The fine for being overweight, which is about $50-$60 in the case of the two firefighting trucks, is more expensive in Idaho than the fine for wasting water in Carson City.

Maybe, though, because the water was intended to fight wildfires in Montana, the guys in Idaho decided it was just going to be wasted anyway.

I can imagine the conversation.

"Where y'all headed?"

"Montana."

"What fer?"

"Fight fires."

"We got fires."

"Well, the fires in Montana are bigger."

"Are not."

"Are so."

"Look, buddy, you're not from around here, are you?"

"Nope. Actually, I'm from Oregon."

"What the heck you going to Montana for, then?"

"I told you. We're hauling water to fight fires."

"Who you working for?"

"Bureau of Land Management."

"Oh, lawdy, lawdy. That's the fed'ral gummint, ain't it?"

"Yes, it is."

"Well, we don't much like the fed'ral gummint here in Idaho. Maybe you heard about us."

"Ummm, you know, I'm just a truck driver. I don't really get wrapped up in all that political stuff. To tell you the truth, my brother-in-law sent a shovel to Elko."

"Well, you're gonna have to leave some of that water in Idaho."

"Why's that?"

"Because you're overweight. That's against the law. And we don't 'llow no lawbreakers in Idaho."

"So, you got somewhere for me to dump the water?"

"Right here on the ground, buddy. Let's go. I'll be writing you up. You'll be leaving a little bit of cash in Idaho, too."

"I did mention that this water is to be used to fight fires?"

"You trying to get smart with me, boy?"

Of course, nothing like this would ever happen in Carson City. For one thing, if the truck's license plate ended in an odd number, and it was an even day, they'd have to wait until the next day to dump their water.

I did have to wonder why the BLM would be hauling water from Idaho to Montana. Have they run out of water in Montana?

This incident occurred in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which may be in the narrow part of Idaho but still is an hour's drive or so from Montana. Seems to me those trucks needed to drive by a few lakes in order to get to Montana.

Maybe those fellows at the Idaho weigh station were just a little bit suspicious that the federal government would be shipping water from Oregon to fight fires in Montana.

I know I would be.

So maybe this whole incident wasn't about water at all. Maybe the Idahoans suspected the federal government had switched from black helicopters to BLM water trucks, and they just wanted to make sure those trucks weren't carrying a bunch of computer chips intended to be implanted into their pets.

Or something like that.

All I know is the fires in Montana are continuing to rage.

And every time I drive down through town, I see somebody in Carson City watering when it isn't their day.

Coincidence?

Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.

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