You and me and all the other homo sapiens moving about the surface of this beautiful planet we call home are aggressive animals with a strong sense of survival. And if need be, we will kill for it.
Back in the 1800's, wars over water in the growing West were real, and fodder for Zane Grey's cowboy books. But if we are going to have enough water to go around in the years to come and for future generations of life on Earth, we must understand every possible facet about water:
Where does it come from?
How much of it is there?
How much of it can we use?
How can we conserve it?
What happens when it begins to run out...?
The mail carrier delivered the answers to many of those questions the other day in the form of a new book from Oregon State University Press: The Oregon Water Handbook, by Rick Bastasch.
"To make a long story short," states the author, "Oregon's out of easy water."
That's not a very optimistic way to start a book that everyone in Oregon should read and understand. However, Oregon is out of "easy water."
I can remember back to the 1950s when the USGS found so much water under the Fort Rock Basin that hay farmers thought they could drill wells and farm alfalfa forever. A little more than 50 years later, there is a moratorium on drilling wells in the Fort Rock Basin because that immense aquifer is not refilling fast enough.
With the specter of global warming growing each day, the big question is, "Will we run out of water?" In parts of Australia and Africa, that's a good possibility. Then what?
I once heard a hydrologist say that if it stopped snowing and raining in the Cascades tomorrow, we would have 40 years of water. But then what?
In The Oregon Water Handbook, there is a quote from Reub Long's book The Oregon Desert: "On my own place and the government land, where I pay for pasturing, amounting to maybe fifty thousand acres, there is not one stream, no lakes, no water on the surface at all...We measure humidity by the amount of sand in the air. When it rains, we keep the hired man in-we want all the water on the land."
Long and all old-time residents of Oregon's desert lands had a healthy respect for water, and a grand sense of humor to go along with it.
I took a busload of teachers out on the desert taking part in an OMSI Enrichment Course one showery spring day in the 1960s and we noticed it was raining everywhere else but on Long's place. "Why is that?" A teacher asked him.
"Oh, that's easy, maam," Long replied. "You see, the Good Lord looks down on us here in the Fort Rock Valley and says, 'I guess I'd better give them folks on the desert a little rain, but Reub don't need it, he's tough.'"
When the laughter died down he added, "But I did see a six-inch rain on my place once... six-inches between the drops."
I can recall a sign in an abandoned wheat farm near Dufur that read, "They say that all we need around here is a little heat and water and crops will grow. Come to think of it, you can say the same thing about Hell."
Whether you are an angler, irrigator, golf course manager, have a backyard full of flowers that need water, or just plain thirsty, you should go to your favorite bookstore and buy a copy of The Oregon Water Handbook. If you read it, and put the contents to work, it will help show you the way to have water for tomorrow.