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Monday, April 12, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere

A small pond lies in the lowest part of our front yard, near the road. It is a visible reminder of what lies beneath, and sustains, us. We may tire of rain, but we drink it, cook, bathe, and wash with it. We are entirely dependent upon it.

There are at least three other larger ponds in our neighborhood, all sustained through runoff and natural seepage. This area has abundant seepage evidenced by a series of old ditches, one of which carries water through our pond. The previous owners of our home may have dug the pond, but whether they did or not water would have flowed there, running ever downhill on the path of least resistance, as water will. Although the small stream diminishes to a trickle near the end of summer, only in extreme dry years does it disappear.

At least six glacial periods in the distant past left our part of the country with a mixture of materials including sand, gravel, silt and clay. Rain seeps down through the soil and other layers to become groundwater, which is stored in aquifers - in the pore spaces between the grains of sand and gravel. We do not have any underground rivers or lakes providing us with our groundwater in Kitsap County. No matter how much snow falls on the Olympics or the Cascades, we get no groundwater from them, either. It all comes from rain.

Groundwater feeds our streams in the summer and discharges underground into Puget Sound. It also supplies us with the water we need to survive and function. Eighty percent of residents in Kitsap County use groundwater that is pumped from wells. With all of us pulling this precious resource out of the ground, it is essential that the aquifers be constantly recharged. Areas with permeable soils covered with natural vegetation are best for recharge, while impervious surfaces like pavement, gravel roads, rooftops and even some lawns cause rain to run off into storm drains or creeks before it can recharge the groundwater. Groundwater can be contaminated and any substances put onto the surface or below the surface of the ground have a possibility of entering a drinking water well.

Although I grew up drinking purified river “city” water, I’ve since lived in homes in three different states with private wells. At our rural home in Colorado the well was marginal, pumping only enough water for one load of clothes to run through the washer before needing time to recharge. We quickly learned to conserve what little we had. In Idaho, during a summer of extreme drought with an older well and a pump that could not be moved down below a sinking water table, we were forced to drill a new well. We were totally without water until some compassionate neighbors ran a hose from their house to ours. As the well-drilling went on for days, through large underground boulders, at a pace and price we feared we could never afford, we came to realize the true value of water. Just try living – without it.

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
 Revelation 21:6

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