Saturday, May 26, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere…

Water is an interesting subject.

Water is an element that has controlled civilization for centuries as floods and droughts have arrived and left. Despite modern technology, water remains a constant requirement for the maintenance of life.

We drink it. We wash what we need to wash in water including ourselves, our cars and clothes. Water makes our plants, grass and crops grow. Swimming and boating in ponds, lakes and oceans provides exercise and recreation. Fishermen retrieve fish and other seafood from water for our consumption. Firemen use water to extinguish fires and save our homes and businesses from ruin. Hydrants stand on many corners in our country waiting for the next emergency to occur.

People have had a lengthy love/hate relationship with water. Over the decades, water allowed ships to settle various parts of the globe and brought newcomers to our shores. Water powered grist mills to grind corn before more sophisticated machinery was devised. Paddle wheel boats moved people and commerce up and down the Mississippi to help expand our country.

For something that is so vital to our survival, it appears as though little thought goes into preserving and protecting water.

During my childhood, I experienced first-hand just how much we depended on water. In 1952, the little portion of the world where my family lived experienced a terrible drought. Water was rationed. Even though I was quite young, the importance of the situation didn't escape my notice. Our local water source had been greatly depleted following an extremely low spring rainfall. The public swimming pool was closed all summer. Lawns were not watered and cars were not washed. My father would travel several miles to a nearby river and fill containers with water for our family's everyday use. I recall the city hired outside providers to "seed" the clouds with hope of encouraging rain. This venture was successful.

This rationing occurred while I lived in the Midwest, where farmers depended on water not only to make a living but to produce food for consumption. Farmers had more respect for the ebb and flow of the weather than most of the population and even they were hard-pressed to deal with the rationing situation. The growing season suffered greatly that year and food prices increased.

Beginning in 1960, I lived in Arizona where people co-existed in an unstable relationship with water -- and still do. Many single family homes feature a swimming pool. Once considered decadent and extravagant, swimming pools have come to be viewed as a necessity, a way to find solace while living in 110° -plus weather. Nearly everyone I knew either had a pool or access to one. Although pools are not often drained, evaporation due to the sun and significant heat waste a great deal of water annually.

As a result of the vast population growth in recent decades, water consumption has soared. The water table in the Arizona desert continues to fall. Despite conservation efforts, the growth of Phoenix and Las Vegas continue to deplete the area's water supplies including Lake Mead, which was formed with the construction of Hoover Dam at the Colorado River. Local builders throughout the region continue to include features such as fountains, scenic private lakes and water features of every description to entice homeowners.

Some people who reside in the desert recognize that a problem exists regarding the future water supply. Meanwhile, they swim in their pools and irrigate their lawns and plan to worry sometime down the road.

Those of us with an affinity for the desert and its natural beauty recognize that water availability is a problem that will someday come home to roost. When developers and architects will join the crusade is anyone's guess.

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