California used to have an average precipitation of 18” of rainfall a year. I don’t know the figure now, but I do know it’s drastically less. I’m sure many are working on the problem (a pipeline from Alaska? Desalination?) But the need to conserve water is immediate and urgent. That’s got me to thinking of small ways to cut down even more. I won’t enumerate them all but as I washed dishes this morning, by hand, I used half the amount of water I’ve been used to and my thoughts went back to when I was a child.
Water was not scarce in southern Minnesota when I lived there as a child, (1930-38) but in our new country home we didn’t have a well yet. There was a spring across the road and I’d go with my daddy to watch him fill a tall shiny pail with that pure, clear water burbling out of the hillside. It sounded heavenly! Then he’d put the lid on and haul it home taking my hand in his other hand as we crossed the road. We used that water only for drinking and cooking. For bathing and washing clothes, etc., we had an underground cistern outside the kitchen window. Water from the rain came off the roof by way of eaves troughs and channeled through a filter into the cistern. That water was not for drinking but served us well otherwise. A little red hand pump by the kitchen sink drew it out of the cistern.
Washing dishes by hand nowadays is no problem since I live alone and take my meals over at the dining hall. Seldom do I use pots and pans for breakfast or snacks so a pair of rubber gloves have an easy life in the cupboard under the sink. I love the feel of sudsy water on my bare hands and often think of when as a child it was my turn to wash dishes. A dishpan in the dry sink with soap flakes and hot water from the reservoir on the kitchen range worked well but I tried not to slosh into the larger sink. After the last pot was clean I carried the dish basin out to the back porch and threw the sudsy water onto a small lilac bush. That bush loved the dishwater and grew to be as huge as a tree producing bountiful blossoms of fragrance each spring. It didn’t mind the soap, even thrived on it. It was, of course, “Ivory soap 99.9% pure.” I doubt it would have liked our modern detergents.
Now if I have left-over clean water in a glass or any other container I pour it into the watering can on the patio to use on the few plants there. I’m careful not to run the faucets unnecessarily especially the hot water one. You know the game. Perhaps this drought will spur the state to go forward with more permanent answers.
I think often of my Daddy hauling spring water home and how he dug a well 25 feet deep with his shovel! That well lasted until we could afford to have well diggers come and do the job professionally, crowning it with a tall windmill. I think of the rain water on our roof pouring into the cistern and, years later, of the time I lived on a ranch in Oregon where our water was spring-fed into the house from the hill behind, and how we watered our lawn and fields with huge irrigation pipes from the river.
Now I’m being encouraged by my kids to drink more water. I do, and as I swallow I think I’ll start calling all water precious. "Precious water." The words go well together, don’t they?