We need to start thinking about water

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Water continues to turn up in the news, both due to its scarcity on one side of the nation, and its incredible devastation in flooding on the other.

Water, so often taken for granted, has become more and more a hot button issue in the drought-stricken west. Agriculture in California uses 80 percent of developed water in the state, defined as water that can be stored or moved. One news segment recently focused on the almond industry, with critics rallying against the amount of water needed to bring a crop to harvest. It is estimated that 1 gallon of water is required per nut.

With California producing more than 90 percent of the nation’s almonds, walnuts, apricots, pistachios and tomatoes, critics argue that crops like corn, rice, cotton and alfalfa can be grown elsewhere, any place where water is more plentiful and less valuable than in California. However, it must be recognized that alfalfa and corn support the dairy industry, and California is the biggest dairy state, supplying milk and dairy products consumed locally as well as exported to Asia.

Water wars

Truth can be stranger than fiction, which comes to mind in the case of actor Tom Selleck agreeing to pay $21,685 to cover the cost of a private investigator looking in to the case of whether or not Selleck unlawfully moved water from outside of his district to the 60-acre Hidden Valley Ranch where his avocado crop is cultivated.

Whether or not he paid for the water drawn from a hydrant “more than a dozen times” is a moot point; he essentially admitted to having illegally moved the water.

One citizen of southern California, interviewed for a news report, angrily stated he has watched thousands of dollars of his own trees and landscape die off, while others use all the water they want “then blame the farmers for watering a crop they will happily consume.”

“Dollar bills won’t fill the reservoirs up again,” one woman commented in disgust.

Most Americans mindlessly use about 100 gallons of water a day. For those of us who grew up on farms serviced by water wells, we knew not to waste it, but I doubt we ever really imagined life with no access to it.

Water taps are running dry every day in California and New Mexico, with no options for replenishing a water source.

Too much water

With family friends living near Columbia, S.C., we have watched reports of devastating flooding with concern for residents there. The weight of water brought crushing damage to areas that had never known fear of flooding, and therefore had no insurance coverage for it.

The losses continue to mount, and we are once again reminded how very little control we hold over such monumental matters, whether it is the lack of a natural resource or the deluge and devastation of far too much of it.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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