A Dry Well Is An Eye Opener

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Those of us who recall the severe drought in California in the 1970s have some understanding of the necessity for water conservation. We still recall phrases about when to flush our toilets, like "If it's yellow let it mellow ..." and "shower with a friend."

Those were the years when all the lawns turned brown and wildfires broke out everywhere. Our normally lush, verdant landscape was quickly turning to a dustbowl. And this was Northern California, not the desert biozone of the southern part of the state.

Yet, California seemed to have elaborate backup plans if water became scarce. Los Angeles relied on huge projects that transported Colorado River water, diverting it until all that was left for its Southern neighbor, Mexico, was a polluted trickle.

The northern part of the state considered elaborate systems of diversion from its water wealthy neighbors to the north.

The Rim country of Arizona has fewer options when our aquifers become depleted to the point where they can no longer adequately supply the town.

It's easy to become lax when water is luxuriously supplied by a town system. I took this for granted until I lived in a house with a private well just outside of Flagstaff. It was fine until summer visitors would come and the extra demand left me dry by the end of the weekend and I'd have to phone the local water hauler to save me.

Eventually, the well could no longer supply my very small household and as I put down a large sum for another well, I'd watch my neighbor plant his fruit trees. As we were likely sucking water from the same source, I felt very frustrated. Not just because he was hoarding the neighborhood water, but the soil, wind, and cold temperatures of our microclimate eventually killed his trees every year.

My new well was considered to be a fair producer at a whopping two gallons a minute. But after a year of not having to call the water hauler, I turned on the faucet and water trickled out.

I called the well guy and prayed that it was a mechanical problem, but it wasn't. I had another barren 200 foot hole in my back yard and my neighbor was putting in another round of trees that lined his long driveway.

We take water for granted until nothing comes out of our faucets, until we are on a first name basis with the local hauler, use the overflow from a handwashing to water house plants, have to remind guests about the three minute time limit on showers, and have no choice but to let things "mellow".

If everyone could experience a day without water, I'm sure they'd think twice before planting those fruit trees, ignoring conservation stage guidelines, or otherwise wasting a precious commodity that we take for granted until the day we turn on the faucet and nothing comes out.

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