Friday, November 15, 2013

Finding Water

There are a number of ways of finding water. Some walk over the land with a forked willow limb in a practice called ‘dowsing’. Others, perhaps more scientifically, study the geology carefully…still others look at the vegetation. Some, like Craig Childs (The Secret Knowledge of Water) spend days, even months, in the field under very dangerous conditions, in order to find water. My son Kevin and I recently used history and a little of the above (but not dowsing or danger) to find water.

We were talking one day when he mentioned having read somewhere of the building of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad (1865-1959) in the northwestern part of the colorful US State of Nevada. The book or books indicated that upon reaching a certain mileage, those building the railroad bed had encountered water.  Kevin located the possible location and passed the information on to me.  I used Google Earth to follow the still existing railroad bed, sans tracks and ties, and right where it should be was a stand of green vegetation. 

In late October of 2013, along with the Nevada gathering of our family, we walked about three kilometers along the old roadbed until we came to the stand of willow I had seen on the Google Map.  At first it was difficult to tell, but after looking more carefully we saw the water!  There, at the base of what is called a ‘cut’ in the slope of the hillside, we found a shallow pool, 3-4 meters long, of very clear water.  The soil around the pool was hard-packed sand and gravel and did not take the impression of animal tracks very well. We could not tell what animals visited the site but in these very arid lands, this water is valuable to many species.  Our visit took place on the driest day of the year and yet there was water in this shallow basin. It snowed in northwestern Nevada the day after our visit to the seep.

The old railroad way is well known and is used by hikers, runners, and a number of other visitors.  I’m sure there are many who know of this permanent seep, certainly hundreds of recreationists pass it each week. Regardless, it is always exciting to ‘find’ water. I’m sure we’ll return some day.     

Friday, November 1, 2013

When the Wells Run Dry


I facilitate a small group of wetland professionals called the Groundwater Wetlands Study Group.  The other day we got an email from a conservation professional who was affiliated with a project in Mongolia. He reported that some of the springs on the nature reserve he oversees had gone dry. It is not a new thing to hear about a well going dry or even springs going dry. Being raised in the desert country of the Western United States I’ve heard a number of stories about people having to dig new wells or drive their existing well deeper into Earth. It does appear, however, as if these reports are becoming more and more frequent. 

At the same time, in some places, new aquifers are being discovered. Such a new discovery recently happened in the nation of Kenya.  Invariably, a new discovery is rapidly accompanied by plans to exploit the water.  Rarely do these plans include sustainable use that incorporates natural recharge of the aquifer.  We continue to produce more and more of us. We continue to invent more and more ways to use resources, including water. And we consistently fail to and anticipate the results of our being and our actions.

In many locations the need for water is so desperate that little thought is given to what will happen when the wells run dry and, unless the use incorporates recharge, they will run dry…all of them, eventually.

 (Thanks to Google for the use of the well images)