Simple isn't it...A single drop of water. It doesn't seem like it could be the base of all things agricultural but it is. If there is no water there are no crops, if there are no crops there is no produce in the grocery store, no grain to make bread with, no corn, no grain to feed beef and dairy cows so no steak, no eggs, no milk, no cheese. You get the picture. We cannot survive without this clear simple fluid.
Yet water is being ignored in favor of the frenzy surrounding fossil fuel use. Every day we are bombarded with worries over the supply of oil, how expensive gas for our cars is getting and the cost of heating oil and natural gas. Do we hear much about water, no. The only time water really gets big headlines is when the huge drainage system of the Mississippi River is causing havoc along the flood plain. Occasionally we hear of cities calling for rationing but that is rare and is usually limited to watering your lawns on alternate days instead of every day.
California is one place where water use and abuse is starting to show the ugly side of water shortages. When John Muir traveled through California in the 1800's he found a paradise. He also found one of the largest fresh water lakes in North America. Lake Tulare...in 1849, the lake measured 1,476 km2 (570 sq mi) but by the mid 20th century the lake had vanished. Its feeder rivers, The Kern, King, Tule and Kaweah rivers had all been harnessed for irrigation and municipal water use. Now the wilderness paradise John Muir discovered is a faded memory in historical texts. The water that balanced the environment is gone. One of the more worrisome things of it all is the urban need for water has exceeded the agricultural need and now large amounts of land the water from the Tulare water shed helped irrigate is laying fallow due to water rationing.
Did you know to grow an acre of corn in Texas it takes 24 inches of water? That water comes from some amazing geological features of the Great Plains....The Ogallala Aquifer and The Edwards Aquifer The Ogallala is an enormous underground basin that runs from South Dakota to Texas and the Edwards supplies fresh water to a huge area of south central Texas from Austin to San Antonio. There are fears these two incredible resources are being taxed beyond their limit to recover.
Las Vegas is supplied by an amazing reservoir built when the Colorado River was harnessed by the Hoover Dam. The resulting lake, Lake Mead, stretches some 112 miles behind the head works of the dam. It is currently 100 feet below full level and that is after one of the heaviest runoffs in the past 10 years. The Colorado River that supplies Lake Mead and continues down stream no longer reaches the sea. That massive river is drained by the many uses man has for water.
But if we listen there is something in the wind, a hint of drought perhaps, the knowledge that our flagrant disregard for water is impacting even our plethora of fresh pollution free water.
It is time we started to seriously pay attention to our miraculous resource....fresh water.