Friday, August 21, 2009

When the Well Runs Dry

So many of you have kindly sent condolences over our situation here--thanks. I will never take running water for granted ever again!

This is the Frio River--or what's left of it--and I'm standing on both banks. Farmer Rick and I were mystified last weekend when a commercial river shuttle dropped off two tubers that looked to be in their 70's at our crossing. I hope someone told them it would be a long, hot, rocky walk back to their car toting those inner tubes!

Compare this with last summer's shot of the same river. When a river gets shallow and warm, fish die, algae grows, bacteria breeds.

Here's a rare glimpse into our dry well, which is basically empty save for a couple of gallons in the bottom. Many of you out in blogland may not even know where your water comes from--you just pay the city each month and it miraculously comes out of your tap when you turn it on.

Some of you may have your own well that's just a teeny pipe that encases a hole bore through hundreds of feet of earth like an iron straw sucking at the water table. If your pump went out you could get one of those old-fashioned hand pumps to draw the water up.

We have a shallow well that was hand dug through limestone by a pioneer pick axe in the 1860's, later encased with concrete. Where that ends there is a dark emptiness--a narrow horizontal cavern--where the water usually flows just like the nearby river it undoubtedly feeds. You see, an aquifer is like a large rock sponge. Some of the holes are as small as your pinkie, and some of them are underground lakes you could swim in.

The hole below the cavern is where the water is usually stored when the spring is flowing. The pioneers would have hauled it up with buckets and ropes over a wood beam, wishing well style. Assuming your bucket held a gallon, that's 8 pounds to haul up and carry to wherever you needed it. At some point the submersible pump was invented and that's what you see going down on the left side. It has to be submersed to run. We've turned ours off.

Think about all the ways we Americans use water: flushing toilets, cleaning house, bathing, cooking, household drinking, washing dishes, doing laundry, washing cars, keeping lawns, gardens, animals alive, recreation if you own a pool. How much would you use if you had to pull every bucket up yourself? What would you do if suddenly you had none?

We are bathing with wet wipes. Since I work from home, I wash my hair only when I know I'm going to be seen, about once a week. We drink and cook from bottled water. Fortunately we have a lot of dishes and clothes. I may soon have to drive to another town to use a laundromat and resort to paper plates. That little puddle is managing to keep our animals watered--so far. We can only hope for rain.

I've begun to realize Life, as we've known it, is pretty luxurious compared to what the pioneers must have experienced. I think about all the people today in third world countries who live on about 3 gallons of water--or less--per person per day and that water might even be as skanky as what's in our river right now.

So, the next time you turn on your faucet be conservative with your use, and remember to be thankful!


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow. I am very thankful for water. Oh yes I am, my friend. I feel so bad for you guys. This is dire straits. Are you hauling water in? Are you keeping a cistern?
We are very lucky in that we have Community water.
I watch trucks pulling trailers drive past my house all day, towing large plastic water tanks that have to be refilled with water. At 7,000 ft in our difficult to drill granite and limestone rock, if folks don't dig deep enough their wells go dry quickly.

Your photos were quite shocking and put a real-life more personal spin on the importance of water. The photo of the river 3 ft deep and crystal clear was quite a huge difference to what you have now. And I suppose it seriously affects tourism, too.
Thanks for sharing this story and explaining how it all works, too.
I sure do hope and pray you guys get some serious daily rain very soon.


flowerweaver said...

Thanks, Lisa. We are told you cannot put hauled water into a well, and we don't own a cistern. But we might have to buy or build one soon. I will start with a call to the company that services our well on Monday. We certainly don't have the money to drill a deeper well. We are just taking things one day, one bottle of water at a time.

thecrazysheeplady said...


Dana and Daisy said...

Girl, have you had a long drought?
we have had an abundance of water the last two years due to heavy spring rains. thi summer we have been very fortunate to not need to water our lawn and gardens. wish I could fill up a tanker truck and send it your way!

I remember times when my aunt and uncles well would dry up too. Aweful, just aweful!

Prayers for flowing waters your way soon!
Love, Dana

Nola @ the Alamo said...

I'll be praying for rain to come your way!
Back in 1980 (the hottest, driest summer I remember) my first husband and I lived on the family farm and had our own little well, hand dug by my dad, grandpa, and great uncles years before. We became very aware of our water usage when we knew that there was a real possibility that nothing would come out when we turned the tap on! We got a big plastic tank that is used to haul water for livestock from the farm supply store and kept it for emergencies and toilet flushing etc...
Hope you have wet days in the future!

gtyyup said...

Praying for rain to come your way soon.

I know the feeling you're having. Two years ago, our domestic well went dry in the middle of summer. One that was only 35 feet deep...dug by hand many, many years ago. Thanks goodness we had our irrigation well. As the wheel line would come by the front of the house, we would fill up all the 5 gallon buckets we had and used that water for flushing toilets. We broke out all our camping water containers and filled them at the neighbor's. We could fill the horse troughs too (we don't have a creek). This went on for 6 weeks.

We were in the position to be able to drill a new well and pray that we won't have to go through that again.

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