Friday, January 9, 2009

Deep in the Heart

There’s a song from the musical Finian’s Rainbow that says “When I’m not near the girl I love, I love the girl I’m near”. Well, I am not that kind of fickle, but I could paraphrase the song and say that “When I am not near the water I love, I love the water I’m near.” Or at least I write about the water I am near.

I’m in suburban Dallas right now, visiting family. There is no body of water nearby unless you count the aqueduct a few blocks away which connects to others to form a system throughout this area. I have been here several times. If I did not know the channel running through the neighborhood park was an aqueduct, I would think it was just a depression in the ground. Actually, it may just be a water retention area. Right now, it is a stream of tall grasses and trash, with a small trickle of water through the middle. In the spring and fall this ditch flows like a river. When I was here in October I even saw turtles swimming in it.

I don’t know much about Texas water except what I see, which isn’t much, so I got on a few websites to see what the water issues are here. Not surprisingly, they are like everywhere else. Increasing demands and diminishing supplies. Pollution. Conservation.

I know they say everything is big in Texas, and after some research I could add it is also extremely diverse here. I have never been in far eastern or western Texas but looking at a climate map, I learned that the west is arid and the east is subtropical. Here in North Central Texas, it is subtropical climate, on the border between humid and subhumid. The average rainfall here is about 35 inches per year, not much different from Southeastern Wisconsin.

Rainfall across the state ranges from less than 5 inches per year west of El Paso to over 55 inches in the east, so you can’t generalize about Texas water. But even in those areas where water is more plentiful, there are still issues and environmentalists are pushing the same measures for conservation that we see everywhere. One statistic I read was that of 31 natural large springs, only 17 are still flowing.

Yet as I walk around this suburban neighborhood, I see green grass and flowers. Some of that is because of the climate. Many people have the kind of grass here that is dormant in winter and requires little water, but not everyone. It is a little jolting to see green in winter although I remember winter the year we lived in Sacramento. Winter is green there. Summer is brown. In Wisconsin, winter either white or gray.

I do have to wonder about water usage. Are the grasses planted drought resistant? This area is in the midst of a moderate drought according to the United States Geological Survey. Do people in these relatively new houses have low flush toliets? How often do they wash their cars?

In reality, their water habits are no different than those of the rest of us. Water conservation and water concerns are not just a Midwest or a Texas or even an American concern. It is a global problem. And the irony of it all, is that as I write people in the Pacific Northwest are flooding. Water issues. They sure are complicated, aren't they?

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