Saturday, May 25, 2013

I think it's a cultural thing, and I'm embarrassed to say, there's so much I love about Texas, but what are they going to do about the water?

Everybody knows the Ogallala reservoir is going to run out. It has already run out, leaving some people high and dry, making some farms in western Kansas, for example, virtually useless. Down here, they still keep pulling water from it. Midland, they say, is totally dry. Other towns are dry too, and out in the country, where you're allowed to draw a well, you have to draw new wells every couple of years, because they are using what's left, so quickly, in fact, more recently than ever.

My wife blames the frackers, and it's true, they use millions of gallons, and don't thank anyone, though their money is just as good as mine. There are also tons of water sprinklers around. All the wealthy people want to have very green lawns, and they're willing to pay for it; the city, also, wants to make sure its parks are green. The problem with these sprinklers is, much of it evaporates. In other words, they're pulling millions of gallons out of the ground, and putting it into the air, where it is no doubt causing some instability, a few extra storms, rising seas, whatever. It sure isn't going back into the ground.

I went out tonight for a walk around Tech Terrace park, a wonderful, green park. One night I was walking and the sprinklers shot out from between my legs and almost got me, right as I was walking. I actually like the sprinklers, I like the idea that people in town can share all this wonderful fresh green space, so we don't have to go home and do our own lawns. But I'm convinced that mostly the farming, but in any case the massive spray-irrigation, water put out into this dry air, is causing a lot of evaporation, and destabilizing the entire region. It's not just the cars and trucks that are messing up the air. We're putting a lot more water into it, and that's adding fuel to the fire, so to speak.

There are two different opinions when you ask people about the rapidly depleting aquifer. Nobody doubts for a minute that disaster is around the next corner. Some people have the attitude that, if everyone's grabbing it, I might as well grab mine; I'm not going to stand around, and watch other people take the last few drops. Other people try their best to be conservative, like my wife. She'll say, don't just water the grass, it's useless. If you're going to water the trees, go ahead, but why water grass when it's just going to die? Conserve the water, and only use it when you really need it.

I'm like the guy in the old Jewish rabbi joke who agrees with both sides. First one rabbi has an opinion, and he says, "Yes, I agree!" Then the other has a different opinion, and he again says, "Yes, I agree!". Finally they turn on him and say, "Now Chaim, you can't agree with both of us. You have to agree with one, or the other, but not both!" So he says, "Yes, absolutely, I agree!!"

In Israel they have a kind of drip irrigation. It ensures that you don't lose water to evaporation, and it drips directly onto plants, without giving anything a chance to suck it out into the air. The good thing about drip irrigation is, you can run used water through it. That water will end up going downward, back to the water table, unlike spray irrigation, which must be clean, and with which, so much of it gets sprayed into the air. It might be something for Lubbock to think about. I sense a weakness, though. Everyone here is ruggedly independent. The very culture goes against the idea of getting together, as a culture, and solving the problem collectively, but denying ourselves something we've come to love (sprayed water). It doesn't seem like it's going to happen. Everyone knows we're doomed if it doesn't, but hey, we might be doomed anyway. What's the point of making our lives harder, dryer, just now when we need a break?

So tonight, on my walk, a huge, beautiful and dramatic cloud approached from the south and west, and came more or less right above me, with some heat lightning kind of tailing it to the south, and I could hear some wild thunder rumbling in the distance. Maybe some clues to get inside before it was too late. But instead, I walked my entire course, and it never really rained. Some folks say, it hasn't really rained in maybe seven years, we're due for a good year soon. Some farmers say, it would have to rain for weeks straight to make up for what has been lost. One would think, with all this water in the air, much of which we've put there ourselves, some would come back 'round and wet our whistle. Apparently it's drenching San Antonio pretty good. Leaving us untouched, though. the skies are blue most of the time (tonight, a pretty kind of gray), and when even a little humidity comes through, you can really feel it. Then, when the wind picks up, you can kind of feel that it's carrying stuff. Trouble, maybe, or just change.