Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Watery Debate

As I watch Colorado suffer devastating wildfires and endure triple-digit heat, I ponder a recent conversation that revealed two very different perspectives on the value of water.

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images North America
Here at SCRANCH, I am in charge of securing my own water - Brent has made damn sure about that. About once a week or so, I fire up the '57 Chevy that carries the water tank and I park it near The Mae Flower. In about 20 minutes, Mae's 30-gallon tank is filled to capacity and I'm good to go. I filled 'er up today and it's a grand feeling to have a fresh water stock. I only started enjoying hot water last Saturday so I'm living large, daily showers and everything.

Securing water for the tank was one of my first tests of farm girl independence. After Brent taught me how to drive that '57 beauty (when was the last time you used an engine choke?), I headed off down the road, bouncing and creaking, to the neighbor's spigot, where they let me fill up to my thirsty heart's content. Obtaining all 300 gallons took about 45 minutes so I just sat, read and listened to bird song in the duration; it's one of my favorite 'chores.'

When I returned back to the farm and went to fill up Mae, I noticed that the valve on the tank had a pretty big leak. Watching that water spurt out onto the wooden truck bed and down on the gravel, pained me something awful. So, I fetched a bucket and caught the water, dumping it back into the tank, so it wouldn't be wasted.

Later, that day, I told Brent about the leak and how I'd caught the water.

"Well, you don't have to worry about the water leaking out. But I'll just dump out the tank and put a new valve on, it'll be good as n-"

"You are NOT going to dump all that water out! I just filled it up!" 

"Whoa! It's not that bigga deal, Heather. It's just water. Holy Moly." 

"Well, where I come from, water is a VERY big deal! I've lived in two drought-prone states, California and Colorado, and they both fight over the same river for their water. I'm telling you, you BETTER not dump out that water!"

"Well, up here in the north, we don't think about water like that. We have plenty of-"


Off on a watery tangent, I went on to describe the "Use Only What You Need" signs all over Denver lawns, imploring citizens to use water sparingly and how some communities offer homeowner tax breaks for xeriscape yards sowing indigenous plants with low-water needs.

Then, I told him about the LA fines for letting water run out on the sidewalk, how neighbors will turn chronic water wasters in via 1-800-DIAL-DWP. I described water-saving "lawns" in LA - flat cement painted green or just plain ol' astro-turf. (I showed an example of the latter to Kirk when we were in Beverly Hills, he couldn't believe it.)

"....and we were trained in school to turn off the shower when we lathered up our shampoo, something I STILL do! YOU CANNOT JUST DUMP OUT THAT WATER!" 

"Okay, okay! Jeez!" 

Poor Brent. He'd tripped a wire I didn't even know I had. Later, he told Manny (my neighbor/cousin who let us borrow the water tank) about the valve leak. Manny's response?

"Well, just dump out the water and get a new valve on there."

"No can do," Brent tells him. "Heather got pretty upset about that so we just have to hope she starts taking long showers and doing lots of dishes. This could take awhile."

Manny was mystified and remains so.


Average rainfall from places I've lived: 

Long Beach, California: 12.94"
Hermosa Beach, California: 13.17"
San Francisco, California: 22.28"
Denver, Colorado: 15.81"
Neche, North Dakota: 18.25"

I can tell you that the only complaint I had about living in Colorado was the lack of moisture, which came as quite a shock after moving from the foggiest neighborhood in San Francisco. Instead of wearing wool in July, I had a water bottle strapped to my side, swallowed fish oil tablets every day, squirted eye drops, watched my hair go flat and occasionally, applied a Q-tip of olive oil up my nose before bed so it wouldn't bleed. 

Being back in a land of humidity is wonderful - my hair, skin and eyes thank me every day. And I haven't watered my garden a single time since I got here - but that's tomorrow's 'chore.'

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