Photo: rainwater harvesting.
My house gets water via a well; family lore says it is 70 feet deep. The house was built in 1950 and the well has never gone dry. In the hot dry days of 2010, the water supply got a bit shaky -- the faucet spat and coughed and the water was sulfur-smelly, but it kept on coming. I hose-watered a vegetable garden, new berry bush patches, new flowers around the front patio, a new bed of day lilies and perennials out near the road.
By mid-autumn 2010 I had forgotten all about my fears of the well going dry, further calmed by the copious water pouring out of the wetland woods behind my house all winter and spring 2011 -- enough to often form a small stream running across my backyard, the water pouring into my neighbors' front and back yard, their house surrounded by water, linked via a driveway isthmus to the road. Water shortage? Not here!
Last Sunday, in mid-July 2011, the water stopped flowing. I had done two loads of laundry and watered the small gardens and small trees and berry patches that I have planted over the past two years. I had bought a small cheap oscillating sprinkler to save myself some time (hubris enters the picture), had ratcheted down the settings so that it sprinkled very specific areas.
I was setting up the sprinkler in the patio to water the delicate flowers that get so super-heated, and suddenly the water flow began to cough and choke, and a blast of water blew out the plug on the end of the sprinkler - and then no more water. The well pump was on -- and did not go off. It was working madly to suck water up out of the ground and into my pipes and faucets and toilets - but the well was dry.
The plumber has been here twice and is fairly sure this is a dry well, not a leaky pipe under the house or a broken well casing (know all about that from gas fracking). He said that on the day I called their emergency line, FIVE other people called with dry wells. I have heard since that "many people" are reporting dry wells in this supposedly water-rich area, and farmers are in fear of losing their water supply.
My political voice keeps trying to break in here, about how is it that gas companies want our water to frack gas wells, when we don't have enough for our own uses -- but I'll stay calm and for the time being continue looking at this personal disaster with manifold household and day-to-day ramifications.
I'll eventually get around to water and gas fracking and Governor Cuomo saying that NY City's unfiltered water is more important than all our unfiltered wells upstate .... and right-wingers right here in Dryden NY saying that because we have all this "free" precipitation that "falls out of the sky every year," that means we have lots of "extra" water that can be used (permanently removed from the water cycle) for gas fracking, and no one will notice the loss!
But I will tamp down the rage and return to my situation of a household in midsummer suddenly without running water for the forseeable future. Like the guy who runs the Atlanta Sewer and Water District said in a talk at River Rally in May, "Try doing without it for an afternoon!"
Seems to me that climate change and my own personal necessity for adaptation have arrived on my doorstep: suddenly last Sunday. I am no consumer hog. I am getting an energy audit for my house so that I can further reduce my natural gas usage; I keep the house at 55-62F in the winter and don't have a/c or a dishwasher, and I put my laundry on the line whenever feasible. Trying to grow my own vegetables. Replacing lawn with native plants. Composting every last little scrap and recycling the rest. Trying to be good! But the "new normal" has caught up with me, and left me high and dry.
Wait a minute, did you catch me saying the words climate change? Those dirty wicked leftie words that mean I am part of some inchoate, foggy plot to destroy the American Way of Life? Oh darn it, "politics" -- though I call 'em FACTS -- have crept back in.
It's hot, it's late, the neighbors are shooting off big boomer firecrackers that could set the tinder-dry woods on fire, the police soothe me over the phone that they will come check it out but they don't, and my cats are miserable in their heavy fur coats. I am going to take the one-gallon shower that I have perfected.
Check back in for happy hints on water conservation and things I have learned in one short week about what happens when a house goes water-free in mid-summer. And there will be sudden dangerous outbursts of fact-based science commentary.
I hear it might rain Sunday night, or maybe Monday.