Recently, I was sent a questionnaire from Oregon State University; it was a survey of what I believe about the future availability of water. This is Oregon, I thought, known for how much rain we get. And our house is by a lake, for goodness sake. How could we run out of water?
But the questionnaire left me feeling uneasy, like the folks at OSU must be asking these questions for a reason. Questions like, how do I think water should be rationed if there's ever a shortage? Which things do I think are more important--water for landscaping, water for wild life, water for recreational use, water for people? And how long do I see a plentiful supply of water being available, five years, ten year, fifty years, one hundred years? (Why do they want to know this?)
Today, in the middle of making bread, I went to turn on the water at the kitchen sink and--nothing. At first, I wasn't concerned. This happens sometimes. The pressure tank in the garage loses pressure and you have to manually flip a switch so the pressure will build back up. It's usually smooth sailing from there.
But this time something was wrong. My husband kept flipping the switch, but the pipe that's supposed to be filled with water looked like it was full of air bubbles. Big ones. Our water system includes a reservoir that sits up behind our house. It's supposed to stay filled with over a thousand gallons of water once it's pumped up the hill from a well at the bottom of our property.
"Is the reservoir empty?" I whispered the question while thinking of how my dad and step-mom had just been here. It was their first time visiting our new country property. They'd stayed the night and left only a couple hours earlier, having mentioned more than once how good our water tasted. We'd discussed our well, our reservoir, and the great water filtration system we have. (Come to think of it, we'd also taken a walk by the lake and commented to my parents on how low the water level is this year compared to last...Hmmmm.)
My step-mom had just this morning shared with us the story of her recent visit to Israel. The government there strictly rations the people's water. They have small tanks on their rooftops and a truck comes around twice a week to fill them. She was miserable in the scorching Israeli heat and would have loved a cool shower, but there it's common custom and good manners (and expected of you) to decline an invitation to shower, even when your host kindly offers.
So what about our reservoir? Yep. My husband just checked. It's completely dry.
The washing machine sits humming, waiting for water to finish the job it started. My sink is full of dirty dishes from cooking for guests and making bread. I'm sweaty from kneading the dough and I was counting on a shower this evening. How long has our reservoir been running out of water, anyway?
We can only hope the problem is the pump down the hill--but (I don't even want to think it) what if the well is dry?
Maybe the people at Oregon State University with the questionnaire know something the rest of us don't. (Is it too late to change my answers?) My sense of water-security is shaken. Maybe we take water way too much for granted.
I don't know how this will turn out, but for now, I'm off to town to buy water. I'll keep you posted.
Joy--Fearless Farm Girl,
"Farm girl: it's a verb, because it's what you do."