Saturday, April 16, 2016

Water is Wealth

Oregon has had a great El Nino this winter, recharging our lowered wells, and banking water in our mountains in the form of snow that will be feeding our rivers throughout the summer, allowing us to use it or lose it. 
If we don’t use it, we may well lose more of that snow over the summer than if we don’t.  Water that evaporates from summer sprinkler use makes clouds and rain uphill and downwind, cooling the air and melting the snow more slowly than if it is dry and hot in the mountains.
Water is wealth and is a lot like money: we less we keep it in circulation, the less we have to use.  Water vapor made by sprinklers moves east with the wind and makes rain not only in our hills, but over the mountains in the deserts and plains.  The less confidence that we have in its supply, the less we use it and the less is available to use.
We likely had 4 years of drought on the West Coast because we didn’t keep it circulating like we used to.  For the last 30 years, we have been told that the world has a limited supply of water, and we must save it regardless of local supplies, although it is the most automatically recycled resource on earth.  We have plenty of water in our river and its reservoir, which got us through the last 4 years of drought regardless of snow lack; we can afford to use it and should.
When I was here in the ‘80s, we were irrigating whole cities and the vast majority of our farmland and had summer thunderstorms nearly every weekend.  Our creeks ran all summer.  There was more summer rain in Medford than here and more in Klamath Falls than in Medford, which could happen only by keeping the water moving downwind and uphill, adding to it along the way.  We had larger rain events in July and August than in June and September because we kept the water moving uphill.  Both situations have reversed since the ‘90s as we watered less and many farms and yards went dry in summer.
Many cities, including Grants Pass, have instituted tiered water rates that charge more for higher tiers of use, which is bad for the finances of both our water plant and its customers.  People have responded by using less water, which meant that the rates had to be hiked even more to pay for plant overhead, which is most of the cost of providing clean water.  
Tiered rates are actually illegal, charging larger families more for a public service than it costs to provide it, and charging single-person households less.  Ironically, we all end up paying more for less water, because they discourage higher use that would cover the overhead.
Many people have saved water and money by not watering, and thus have stopped sharing water vapor, which otherwise would cool the air and make rain, filling creeks which do not get snow melt and have gone dry in late summer over the last two decades. 
Our river water is our wealth.  Use it and keep it circulating or lose it to the ocean.
April 2016, online at  Like Garden Grants Pass on Facebook.

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040