As I was reading some stuff about water one morning this week, I was reminded of the water source of my youth – a twenty-foot deep hand-dug well. It sometimes is difficult to believe that we in 2020 are not far separated, measured sometimes by the calendar and sometimes by miles, from having no imagining of conveniences such as computers or water that simply appears at the turn of a knob.
When I was a lad of 10, our water came from a hole Arthur Staples dug in the ground about 100 feet from our kitchen door. At the top of the well was a four-foot diameter concrete section of pipe, with a concrete cover that supported a hand-pump. When we needed water in the house, I would be commissioned to grab a ten-quart galvanized pail, fill it from the well, and carry it slopping back to where Mom waited in the kitchen.
In summer, the task was not too unenjoyable. In winter was when we had running water. With snow measured in feet and temperatures often way below freezing, it was necessary first to pour a pan of almost hot water into the pump – which would have cooled by the time you got there and brushed the snow away from the top of the mechanism –to prime it, then fill the pail, and hold the handle up to drain the pump.
That last step was imperative. The pump had a glass liner and if one did not drain the pump, the water would freeze and bust the liner, and the pump would cease to function until an adult could go to town, buy a new liner, then come home and disassemble the pump, and replace the busted part.
The adult thus employed could be relied upon to impress the offending youngster, in graphic phrases and hand signals, of the seriousness of his error.
Some homes got around the frozen pump problem with indoor plumbing. That meant the well was under the kitchen and the water pump was on the sideboard, where it pumped water into the sink
To say that was “more than a half-century ago” sounds like a long time, but in the scheme of history, 60 years isn’t really that long. There still are people in some countries pumping water by hand, or filling modern plastic jugs from wooden pipes poked into a natural spring. Some people still travel miles to find water at all.
For instance, the Supreme Court is considering a case in which Mississippi and Tennessee are arguing over water in an underground aquifer near their mutual border. Mississippi says it owns the water. Tennessee claims it is interstate water. Watch this channel.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, officials have a a plan to allow the Phoenix suburb of Queen Creek to buy water currently being used by farmers in a nearby farming community. Selling the water to the Phoenix ‘burb would leave the farm fields dry and fallow.
A few years ago, a chemical leak into the Elk River in West Virginia sent the local water company to Pennsylvania for water it hauled by truck to its southern customers.
And Adams County there still is a plan to pipe in a few million gallons a day. Proponents say it is to establish a surplus in the county, but even that argument implies we already have used, or committed, what we have.
It’s often been said that with 75 percent of the planet covered by water, we clearly are meant to spend more time fishing than working.
Water, water, everywhere. That drop to drink, though, is becoming a problem.
Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please take a moment to share.