Fresh water to be exact: wells, aquifers, springs, reservoirs, recycled water, runoff, snowmelt. Water is taken for granted. It's a given; it will always be there for us. Or will it?
Parts of the United States are facing water restrictions due to low groundwater tables. California, in particular, is enacting laws to restrict household and business use of water. All you have to do is look at the reservoirs and lakes in California to see the effect of drought.
Even the deep groundwater reserves are being drained. Politicians seem to blame it on homeowner's use of water: watering the lawn, filling the swimming pool, taking long showers, etc. However, if you read the articles or watch news exposes, you will learn that agriculture and fracking use way more water than homeowners ever will.
So why are water restrictions being put on homeowners? Why is fracking allowed to continue? The TV news show 60 Minutes reported in "Depleting the Water" last November that so much groundwater is being used in industry and agriculture (especially fracking and almond orchards) that the land in certain areas of California is subsiding every year, due to the previous, deep-down sponginess of the land drying up.
Some municipalities in California are pumping treated waste water deep back into the ground to try to fill up the water tables. Is it safe? People could be drinking that water at some time in the future! To prove the water is potable, one of the executives at the waste water treatment plant drank a glass of water, then offered a glass to 60 Minutes reporter, Leslie Stahl. She drank it and was surprised it was good water.
Oregon has a law in some areas that prevents people from collecting water in ponds or reservoirs on their property. One man has been fined and sentenced to jail for having three ponds on his property that collect water. Of course, laws on the books from 1925 required him to have a permit. It's a complicated story and he did admit guilt. He had a permit, but says the state took it back from him. As far as I can tell from Snopes.com, he was in the wrong for a long time.
We used to live on a five-acre farm in Newberg, Oregon in the 1960s. We helped my dad dig an area for a small pond so we could use water for our sheep, our garden and to supplement the well water as needed. I don't think the pond ever had much water in it, but it was a good idea.
One thing I learned in researching this blog is that the West has water laws called "prior appropriation," in other words, dibs on the water. Because they were there first. It dates back to the days of the Gold Rush when lots of water was needed to blast the hillsides to send debris down the streams allowing the prospectors to pan for gold. It was the law of "first come, first served." And it's still on the books in the West.
Some states, like Colorado, wouldn't let you collect rainwater off your own roof because someone down the river has a claim on the water that goes back to the years of irrigating fields or supplying mines with water. However, in 2014, a bill was introduced in Colorado to allow homeowners to collect 110 gallons of water off their roofs to be used to water lawns on their own property. The bill does not say if a household can collect 110 gallons of water per day, per week, per month or per year. (At least I couldn't find it.) House Bill 15-1259 is not law yet, but could go into effect August 6, 2015.
Many localities rely on wells, springs, snowmelt or aquifers for their water supply. Here in south Texas, we rely on the Edwards Aquifer to supply our water. The aquifer is "recharged" when the Texas Hill Country gets a lot of rain. The rain filters down through porous limestone and ends up in the aquifer. This spring, south Texas is receiving a lot of rain, so we're hoping the aquifer replenishes. If it doesn't go up dramatically, we will be facing tougher water restrictions than last year.
Needless to say, where the Edwards Aquifer comes out as freshwater springs you will find some mighty fine swimming holes.
|Blue Hole spring swimming hole, Wimberley|
|Jacobs Well swimming hole, Wimberley, Texas|
In the West, will drought, low snowpack and diminishing groundwater tables cause water wars? What, if any, effect is the leaking radiation from Fukushimi doing to our freshwater? I hear reports that the radiation in Fukushimi is not abating but getting worse. Is the radiation leaking into the ocean? Is evaporation of the ocean taking radiation into the clouds which then falls as rain in the western U.S. No mention is ever made of it anymore. Are we all ostriches with our heads buried in the sand? If we keep using up our water at a prodigious rate, sand and dirt may be all we have left.