October 15th, 2010


Water--Blog Action Day 2010

This post is part of Blog Action Day, an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year's topic is water.

This morning the sunrise sky was fiery orange and pink. It was some stratus and moisture leftover from the rain yesterday, but it's to the east of me. I emptied the rain gauge before I fed and released the chickens. .24 inches, making a total of .5 inches with the amount I dumped yesterday morning while it was still raining.

There are maps online now where the doppler radar estimates the total precipitation for a specific location. Comparing our measurements, it's fairly accurate. But I still do it the old-fashioned way, emptying the rain gauge every morning there's measurable precip. For me, it's like the difference between primary and secondary sources.

Rain gauges don't matter to a lot of folks, especially folks that live in communities with municipal water and sewer. To them, the news is a good enough indication of how much rain fell and whether it's enough or too much or too little. And their water often comes from a long way off, making local conditions meaningless beyond the effect rain might have on traffic or leisure activities.

But rain gauges matter here. We live on 10 acres, the four of us, which is a lot of land to most people around the world. A luxury, a waste, an excessive display of wealth even. This land doesn't even support us in terms of growing our own food, except for a small vegetable garden and several hens that are a nice supplement. But this land is both the source of our water and the way we dispose of our waste. We are on both well and septic. A lot of this area is, it's quite common. And to have safe drinking water, the lots are large. To have enough drinking water, the lots are large. Our water doesn't come from an aquifer or a reservoir or a water tower or a stream or snowmelt, not really. We drink groundwater. Our well isn't very deep, it's 85 feet. Around here, 300 foot wells are common. A well that's closer to the surface is more susceptible to drought and bacteria. Because, well, cows poop, chickens poop, cats and dogs poop, humans poop. And it all sinks into the groundwater. Hopefully, the soil cleans it as it sinks the 85 feet. There's a casing that keeps water at higher levels out of the flow from the well.

So I have two worries: cleanliness and drought. Emptying the rain gauge means my well will replenish itself. Too much rain and it might not soak in. Too little and it won't go low enough in the ground. We look for gentle, soaking rains that last a day or more. I don't keep track of rain in terms of calendar years, the way the TV weathermen do. I keep track of rain over a longer period of time. I keep track of rain in terms of water pressure, rain gauges, watering the garden, keeping water out for the animals. Even in drought, I'm lucky in where I live. This is not a desert, but the green hills of Virginia. But this was a rough summer. We had a cold, wet spring followed by a dry summer. The hay yield from our little 5 acre field was half what it was the past couple of years. Too cold and then too dry for the grass to grow well. There will be a hay shortage in this area this winter and it's due to a lack of rain at the right time. The leaves on the trees turned early because it was so dry. And every time I ran the water for a shower, laundry, dishes, I thanked our well. And every time there's a burst of new construction in the area, I get nervous about how it will affect our well. We keep a USGS bedrock map on the wall in the hallway. I've pinpointed where we are and estimated what might affect our well and what might not. Every time the power goes out (which is several times a year, sometimes for a day), we live without running water or flushing toilets. The pump is electric.

The resource that many Americans take for granted, I think about several times a day. And not because I'm living in a desert. And not because I'm living in an area that's overly dense for its water resources. I think about water several times a day because I don't have a municipal system at my back. We're self-sufficient when it comes to water, at the mercy of the elements and other people's ideas of where to construct new homes and businesses.

Do I conserve heavily? No. The gray water goes back out into our land and sinks back into the earth. It isn't carried away and processed. But we do use a front-loading washer and a dishwasher that uses the least amount of water of any dishwasher. And we don't wash our cars or water our lawn. And we don't soak the garden in drought conditions. I suspect our water footprint is smaller than many, but also larger than many. Our well can handle it. Thank you, Well, for bringing me what I need. Thank you Septic, for handling my waste.

And that's my water story for Blog Action Day. But I also have a postscript.

I've learned a lot about irrigation over the years and irrigation farming. I've learned that I live in a part of the country where water is plentiful and we look to tropical storms to break droughts for us. I've learned that my skin is genetically engineered for a maritime climate. I'm skiffy and that means I've read "Dune" and that means I've learned that I'm fat with excess water because I have plenty. I've learned that technology is amazing and that we can harness water to power our lights as it follows gravitational flow. I've learned that water is the most efficient means of transportation for heavy materials such as rock or cement, locally or around the world. I've learned about ditch riding and siphoning from irrigation trenches fed by snowmelt reservoirs. I've learned that in some parts of the U.S. water rights are sold separately from all other rights and you might have water on your land, but it's not yours to use. It belongs to someone else. And I've learned that in eastern Colorado and western Nebraska, corporate farms have dug deep wells to steal from aquifers that belong to family farms and ranches that have been there for generations. And that no one can stop them from doing this because the litigation is too expensive. I've learned that water is precious, even where it's currently plentiful.

Blog Action Day is about learning, about raising your consciousness worldwide. Go read some blogs today.

Frog Out

Go here to read about Madrid, where a friend of mine lives: http://mount-oregano.livejournal.com/89888.html

And here a friend from Texas blogs in his own inimitable style: http://marshallpayne1.livejournal.com/129699.html