"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Water

I woke this morning to heavy damp fog but the little rain we had during the night was barely enough to knock the dust down. So we wait for rain. And wait and wait. We can water the garden with soaker hoses and give each struggling plant a drink from the can but there is no substitute for rain with the rich nutrients it absorbs from the atmosphere on its fall to earth.

I'm sorry to have been so absent here lately. There are the aforementioned garden duties and the novel and the query letter which, trust me, is harder to write than you'd think. After all, it's just a business letter . . . right? You can only stomach so much conflicting advice and I know there is such a thing as over-shopping the query. You must retain your own voice through it all. But, back to water . . .

There was a recent program on NPR about water wars in California’s Central Valley, the dispute between farmers, environmentalists, and fishermen. The farmers are being cut off with reduced rations or none at all for irrigation in order to keep more water in the river for salmon. Environmentalists are fighting for the salmon and for the life of the delta. The government made mistakes in the past—building aqueducts, irrigation systems and dams and encouraging farmers to expand, growing everything from cotton to almonds. This was a shortsighted vision of limitless water and farming took hold under this false pretense of plenty. Now, with a long draught to contend with and fishermen fighting back, farmers who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on irrigation systems find their pipes dry and are understandably upset. They were duped into believing it possible to farm in the desert and came to think of the river as rightfully theirs. But maybe there are better places to grow cotton and maybe California doesn’t have to produce 90 percent of the world’s almonds.

This whole thing makes me nervous because I know that water will be the oil of the twenty-first century and we have only a precarious hold on our Great Lakes treasure.

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