September 2011

Don't take water for granted

By Galen Larson

How can a person taking an oath to protect his country oppose regulations that stop the contamination of our lifeblood?

I refer, of course, to water, the umbilical cord that sustains life on this planet. There are people who have already realized the value of this commodity. If you don’t think those who have power over water aren’t in total control, let me relate an experience I had in Arizona in my younger days.

A friend of mine purchased a 6,000-acre ranch just outside of Wickenburg. No one had worked it for years. The contract called for 60 to 80 head of cattle, but they were wild as deer.

To try to gather them we rode two to three hours at different times each day. After many futile attempts to gather them, we covered four of the five watering holes on the place and built a corral around the other, then sat back and waited.

In about four days we heard them coming. They stopped when they saw the corral but thirst got the best of them and in a short time they docilely walked right in. They had the instincts and knowledge to survive in that harsh area for years. They had fear and cunning, but thirst overcame both, and they soon rested on a toasted bun at McDonald’s.

If one can control a thousandpound wild animal through water, how long do you think a person can hold out against thirst? A diamond may have a false value, but one would gladly give a bag of stones for a soothing drink of cool water. If you think we are controlled now by our appetite for fossil fuels, think what will come about when a few corporations purchase all the water rights.

Can’t happen? Ask the people in Owens Valley, Calif. Power and control in the hands of a few has been the downfall of a number of countries and societies.

“The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century,” a book by Alex Prud’homme available at our local library, is a great read. Here are some facts garnered from that book: As of the year 2000 some 1.2 billion people in the world lacked safe drinking water. By 2025, 16 years hence, that number is projected to be 3.4 billion. Oh, but that is other people’s problem! But in our country between 2004 and 2009 the Clean Water Act was violated some 506,000 times by more than 23,000 companies and other facilities.

Federal agencies have set maximum safe amounts for 91 chemicals in water supplies. An Environmental Working Group study found excessive limits of 49 of these chemicals in drinking-water supplies for approximately 53.6 million of our fellow Americans. Gulp! The above information was lifted from just 10 pages of the book. And it gets worse by the page.

The human race has a lot of cleaning-up to do if we are to survive. Even with all the regulations and regulatory groups we are still drinking dirty water and some in Washington demand that we do away with these supposedly “job-killing” safeguards. Aren’t the people doing the testing and relaying the information employees? Aren’t those jobs?

More jobs could be made when we hire people to clean up this life-sustaining fluid. Can’t even make beer or martinis without it. And you can’t raise vegetables or livestock without it. We in Montezuma County who have water rarely give a thought to many here who haul water and through cost and necessity learn to conserve. In that respect we are somewhat like a Third World nation. The only difference is we truck it instead of carrying it on our heads.

When I was a youngster in Minnesota I carried water in five-gallon buckets from a shallow well to the house for household use and of course to our animals, locked in the barn from October to sometimes the 1st of May. We didn’t have running water in the house till I got back from Korea in 1952. It is amazing that we take for granted so scare and precious a commodity.

We have a selfish group in Washington who almost ruined this country by raving about debt. We have always left the next generation some sort of debt but that can be paid through perseverance. A more important issue is, are we going to leave them access to reasonably priced clean, unpolluted life-sustaining water? Without that, all other problems are null and void.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.