Friday, March 28, 2014

All's Well That Ends Well ("Well" Being the Operative Word)

A number of political leaders have predicted that future wars won’t be fought over land or oil, but over water. From Ben Franklin to Kofi Anan, visionaries who’ve cared to look beyond petty politics into things we should seriously consider for our future, recognize our complacency when it comes to water. But it only takes one tragedy to remind us we should not take this of all resources, for granted.
While going an evening with a shut off valve was annoying and frightening, the positive outcome and spiritual take-away was a wake up call to me to get moving on things I had been contemplating, which is to say, digging my own well.
Irony of ironies and God’s honest truth, I had been on the phone earlier that very same day (before I knew I was coming home to no water) scheduling a second bid with a well-digger, to satisfy my own mind that I’d be paying the going rate for something that yes, can be a bit costly on the front end.
It’s a brand new proposition for me and when things are brand new, my journalistic nature is to "Go to the source," which for me, means a call to my local Ag Extension. I started by asking what requirements exist, what programs might you offer and what licensed professionals might you have on an “approved” list for having properly dug a well before? You can be pretty darned certain that if you’re implementing something of this nature, there’s a governmental agency to consult, with regulations to adhere to and quite often a program to help get you started.
This office is now on my speed dial, as it’s been an endless wealth of information on everything from goat fencing to soil testing to now, well-digging, a subject that just moved front and center on my priority list.
Reasons for having your own well are numerous and varied (and no, mine wasn’t because I was ticked at the water company). When you plant gardens, raise livestock, consider future irrigation systems and self-watering devices, wells are as common as a Pyrenees pup in these parts.
 Beyond practical farming reasons, others now look to wells as a sustainability measure, after all, if gasoline and propane can be rationed, imagine the panic should they ever ration our water supply. Or consider the tragedy in West Virginia this past January wherein 300,000 residents found themselves with contaminated water coming out of their taps, owing to a company that failed to report a leak of the toxic chemical, MCHM, used to wash coal in the plant upstream. Neither the coal company nor the water company brought this issue to light, btw. Investigations were triggered when repeated calls to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) cited licorice-smelling water and nauseating fumes filling the homes of trusting citizens throughout the community.
While the “Do Not Use” orders are now lifted, folks are still fearful for their safety and not trusting of their leaders, and who can blame them? It’s another sad commentary of finger-pointing and name-blaming between high paid, high ranking CEOs and government officials who’d rather lie to save an office than to save a human life.  Somehow bottled water and hand sanitizer by the busloads were but a bandaid on the blight of the cancerous, toxic hazard this created. On top of schools shutting down, restaurants forced to close, hospitals in emergency mode rationing what water they were allotted, the locals' faith is now shot….their worst fears, lived…their suspicions, forever high. It will be curious to see how many well applications will be applied for after this, or if the government will ration those too (that is, for the percentage who could afford this option to start with.)
My microcosmic, self-induced experience of no water for a few hours served to sear in my brain and heart just how much I take water for granted, and for this, I am both sorry and humbled.  Goats and pups are one thing (and a huge thing to me). My own concerns for what I would drink or wash teeth with, was another. But the thought of going for more than a day, much less a week, a month or an indeterminable period of time sent me into deep reflection. I tried to imagine how long I could go without a shower…without washing my hair… How long could I wear those jeans? As crazy as this sounds, the thought of intentionally NOT hugging the pups for trying to stretch out a wash cycle actually crossed my mind. But other minuscule, water-using scenarios also surfaced. I take for granted how often I wash dog bowls, or my own bowls for that matter. Ever think about how often you clean a countertop or pull out a mop? While these are petty things when the focus is survival, they still surfaced in my mind just the same, reminding me just how mindlessly complacent I’d become. My prayers for West Virginians and those in 3rd world countries netted them their own candle. My news intake came with a heightened awareness …all over one mishap on an auto pay, which was remedied with a phone call and a credit card the next morning. But the impact this one little experience had on my thinking overall, brought about a great gift as the shift in my awareness lingers with me still . Somewhere along the way, my guilt for having blundered and my angst for having to pay a late fee vanished, as these things paled in comparison to the people whose water tragedies I was watching.
So over the next few, get ready to hear a lot about wells. My purpose in writing this blog is to share what one first time farmer runs into when starting things she’s never done before. For starters, yes, I have had my land “witched” (“water witching” deserves a blog all its own, given its history and the reason we call it “witching” in the first place). I’m bringing out cameras to capture what the process looks like, for I am utterly amazed with this tactic that some scoff at as superstition. (I guess we’ll know once the well-digger takes over.) So far the well-diggers I’ve talked to take the concept with a grain of salt, but since I’m the paying customer, I can do whatever I want to when it comes to making suggestions, so I say "Let's test it!"  You’d think by now there’d be some form of land seismometer to let you know right off the bat, yes or no, if there’s water underneath, but it appears no such testing is readily available. It’s a calculated guess and could take several costly stabs before getting it right, which is something I'd like to minimize, but does mean another bunch of info I can share.
What I do know (as a very preliminary stage of research thus far) is that wells being dug must all be reported; in my county, even the "hit and miss" drillings are filed. I’ve already asked to see the map of where neighbors’ wells exist (some of the older ones, dug by farm families generations ago, are not on the record books, as laws on this were passed later). In short, you’re gonna get a play-by-play by a novice, now fascinated and motivated like she’s never been before, to dig for alternative approaches to this universal, life-sustaining thing called water.  

As they say on TV, “Stay tuned.”

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