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Monday Photo Meditation: Protecting the Water


This is the time when people begin bringing down the water.

In the village, of course, it’s not a question of bringing it down; it simply flows. This year, unfortunately, the waters will be nowhere near this high.

As I’ve written here before, we tend to speak of it in less active terms: “The water came.” It’s a nod to the water’s essential force, its ability, within certain bounds, to go where it will . . . or to decline to do so. Humanity likes to flatter itself into believing that it can control the elements, but even the most forceful attempts can be overridden with remarkable ease. Ask anyone who has ever survived monsoonal rains, flash floods, an overflowed dam or ruptured levee — they can tell you about the power of the water.

Here, the old ditching system is still in use, at least for now, along with an equally old-fashioned system of weir gates. A friend turned the weirs over the weekend, and our own water came yesterday.

It’s far too low for the season.

At this time of year, the run-off should be epic. For that matter, we would ordinarily still be getting one- and two-day storms, the sort that drop a foot of wet, heavy snow, sufficient to add to the snowpack in mountains even as it melts into the dry earth here below. But our local snowpack is fully two-thirds below it’s “normal” levels this year, and we cannot pin our hopes to short-term storms.

The best we can hope for now is a monsoon season that arrives early, stays late, and delivers plenty of rain. But that, too, has its drawbacks: There have been a few such seasons here when the rains are so heavy that they flood the soil and beat the crops to the ground. Last year’s corn crop was a casualty of just such weather, an afternoon hailstorm shredding the stalks and stunting its growth at a nascent stage.

Water is power, and too much of either can be as dangerous as too little.

This year, the concern is whether there will enough water for the corn to grow in the first place. Fortunately, our crops tend to thrive here with relative ease: good soil and good sun, combined with dedicated caretakers, help to ensure that. But the water is the variable that is both essential and largely out of our control.

There has been much media coverage, over the last year or two, of the concept of water protection, mostly in the context of halting construction of pipelines that put both watersheds and water tables at risk.  That is important — indeed, it’s a matter of literal survival.

But there is an even more fundamental risk to our water supply, one peoples in this part of the continent know well: Drought. Climate change is worsening the risk, and the reality, of our drought conditions here, and doing so in real time. What water we have at the moment must be conserved and dispersed in the most efficient and effective ways possible. That will remain true for the rest of the planting and growing seasons.

We all have another burden to shoulder this year, another obligation to perform, another commitment to keep.

This year, we will all be engaged in protecting the water.

We will also be praying for rain.

~ Aji









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