We take it for granted – wasting as much as we use.
We complain about it – there is either too much or too little.
It covers 70 percent of the earth and is the lifeblood from which all living things flow. Only a small fraction is potable, fit for drinking.
Economies and nations rise and ebb like the tide because of it.
It is a simple compound of hydrogen and oxygen, two gases that can be gas, liquid or solid depending on temperature.
Water has more intrinsic value than oil or gold or any gem.
Comments about rain are, either “there is too much and too often or not enough.” Nobody says, “just enough.”
We live in an area where our water is the envy and coveted, by much of the nation and world. Still water levels and rain are a constant concern.
The area, with about one-half inch of rain and a few days left in July, was two inches below normal, according to a Green Bay weather man – an opinion of End Stool visitors, sans radar and other paraphernalia.
Sid Freeman said, “We need rain. My grass is turning brown.”
Chris Kurth had another reason. “My raspberries had a lot of bugs and I had to spray them. We need rain (to wash off the pesticide) so I can pick them.”
Weeks earlier, Jack Hoag, Bob Most, Dennis Smith and other farmers – restless sitting and sipping coffee – were hoping for dry days to get in the fields.
Water is a growing concern in the Great Lakes region and Wisconsin in particular.
Wisconsin’s drought of 2012 spurred a massive increase in groundwater use. It was the first time in the five years records were kept, the farm sector’s use exceeded municipal demand.
Groundwater pumping from agriculture irrigation jumped 83 percent to 135.2 billion gallons. Portage County, the top, increased 65 percent, Adams County 79 percent and Waushara County 68 percent. All pumped more than 10 billion gallons.
The three counties are in the Central Sands that is the primary irrigation area of the state. Waupaca is in the six-county area, bounded on the west by the Wisconsin River and to the east by the downstream ends of the headwater streams in the Fox-Wolf watershed. Included are the Tomorrow/Waupaca and Little Wolf Rivers and tributaries that flow to the Wolf River.
Waupaca and Outagamie counties pumped 2.5 to 5 billion gallons.
A study on ensuring the future of groundwater is underway. Currently, the process requires the state’s largest users get a permit to drill for water.
State Department of Natural Resources records on high capacity wells, capable of pumping 100,000 gallons of water per day, have increased from fewer than 100 in the 1950s to more than 3,200 today.
“These pumping statistics show we are in a scary situation in Wisconsin,” said George Kraft, UW-Stevens Point ground water expert.
On a positive note, water levels on the Great Lakes are above average for the first time since 1968.
Aside from one year of average measurements in 2008, water levels for Lake Michigan have been well below long-term averages since 1998. After a record low in 2013, the levels have bounded back to normal and predicted to remain above average for the remainder of the summer.
Due to the melting snow and ice, from a record cold and snow winter, and the excessive rainfall this spring, water levels around the Great Lakes have bounced back to above average levels, with Superior, Michigan and Huron levels roughly a foot higher than a year ago.
In March about 92 percent of the Great Lakes were covered by ice, the second highest percentage on record. Superior was the latest to clear, the second week of June, which is the latest since 2003.
Michigan is at its highest level since the late 1990s, about 14 inches above last year’s average according to the Corps of Engineers.
Talk about diverting water to other areas of the country, tapping it to bottle and distribute and other draining of the aquifer persist, because of the value of water to large metropolitan areas, agriculture and commerce.
While many people at the End Stool favor a pipeline to move oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, they would oppose a pipeline carrying water from Lake Michigan out of the region.
Legal battles over rights and accessibility of water are prevalent in regions of the United States. Some are over precedence of endangered species to the needs of humans.
One of the most prominent involves Atlanta coveting potable (drinking) water in Alabama and Florida. In 2009, a U.S. district judge ruled in favor of the two states but gave Atlanta a 3-year grace period to settle the dispute. A district appeals court overturned the decision leaving the dispute unsettled.
California and other West Coast states experience droughts resulting in devastating wild fires and damaging crops. The ongoing drought in California has impacted the state’s agricultural production for several years and long-term moisture deficits remain at near-record levels.
Water is something we can go to a faucet or a “bubbler” and drink free, but will spend a dollar or more to get in a bottle. This was the heart of a dispute a decade ago a few miles southwest.
Perrier, the royalty of bottled water, was spurned in 2000 when it cast a coveted eye on the headwaters of the Mecan River in Waushara County. Trout Unlimited led the protest tapping the Mecan, a prime trout stream.
Moving across the county line to the Big Spring in Adams County also was spurned by local protests.
Perrier would drill, pump, bottle and transport more than 250 million gallons of water a year to other parts of the country.
Once water is removed from a region, it is gone forever from the normal evaporation/precipitation cycle.