water is the new black?

Water is an issue that at the top of my mind these days. Surprising perhaps, as I’m in a place which seems to have a lot of it. Last year I actually set up a drip irrigation system for my tomatoes thinking it would save them from some of the blight issues that come from watering. Alas, our summer had more than enough rain, and we hardly used it at all.

But seriously, I am thinking about water issues a LOT these days. First, naturally, we have a well, and well, we also live in Marcellus Shale land, where drillers are coming at us from all sides. The threat to possible water contamination is real, people. So that’s scary.

But then I’m also thinking about California, where my in-laws live. They live in the central coast, a cute little town, and they are under serious restrictions. They were always metering and using grey water for the garden, but this winter, they’ve been reduced to using grey water in the house–to flush the toilets. They have been shlepping buckets up and down through the house, saving shower water for the toilet, dish water for the toilets, etc. It’s pretty grim. 3 months of overusing and your water could be cut off.

It’s just interesting when you go from the individual level to the industrial or governmental level. So for the in-laws, schlepping and saving, they got this great story. The local water district spilled 168,000 gallons of water in February. They didn’t know there was a leak in the tanks. As one resident points out, each individual is allotted 49 gallons a day, and the amount the water district has lost over the past 6 months equals 24 YEARS of individual permits.

Then there’s the weird case of New Mexico. Today I was reading a story about regulations being lifted for the copper industry. In New Mexico, don’t you know, 90% of all water comes from groundwater sources. That’s kind of scary stuff. Especially when you hear that the copper industry is now pretty much exempt from dealing with the regulations surrounding pollution of ground water, an amendment passed in 2013. That just doesn’t sound like good sense for a drought-plagued state like New Mexico?!

Especially when you also know that the dairy industry is the largest industry in the state. Huh, you say. Yep, that’s right. They got a lot of cows making milk in the desert out there. Makes sense to me? They have the largest herds of any state (average herd size is 2088–big cafo productions). That’s 7 billion pounds of milk! Can you believe that?

Of course, all milk means that these dairies  use (and pollute) a lot of groundwater. 60% of dairies in the state have polluted their nearby groundwater, and like the mining example, they haven’t been required to clean it up.

It just seems like we’re really helping ourselves get to the breaking point even faster than climate change could. It no makey sense to me. All I think I can do, is to try and buy local milk products and avoid those bigger chain brands that are no doubt getting their supply from the desert.