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“Water, Water Everywhere…

…and not a drop to drink.”

Update at bottom of post

I live in a rural area of the Capital Region.  Residents are not serviced with water here, you have to figure it out for yourself.  I am also a renter, or lessee, thus, not in a position to finance a proper deep well into the aquifer and the filteration system to ensure potable water.  My abode is a fairly rustic cabin with a couple of cisterns amounting to 2200 gallons.  About once every 5 weeks, I pay a guy $140 * to come with his tanker truck to fill our needs.  We (my partner and I) have to help run the three fire hoses to reach our tanks.  Rain or shine.  Grey water is utilised where appropriate.  Conservation is fairly strict.

T his kind of lifestyle gives a person a keen appreciation for potable water and how necessary it is to sustaining life.  Not just human life, but flora and fauna as well.  This winter in BC started out with two bad indicators for our future.  Drought and cold at the same time.  Personally, this battered us as our pipes froze up for a week early on, and again for 10 days in January.  That was hard.  Outside my window though, the Western Red Cedars died back quite a lot, the needles turning that copper colour that denotes stress.  I don’t want to imagine my island without the iconic Red Cedar or the higher elevation Yellow Cedar, so prized for it’s ease of carving.  They are dying slowly though and one day will live only in stories and artifacts.  Battered by pine beetle mortality, the interior Taiga forest is a tinderbox.  El Ninio is forecast for this coming spring/summer.

M eanwhile, my Government, the BC Liberals under Christy Clark, have been allowing Nestle, a foreign Corporation, free access to water from the Hope water supply to steal millions of dollars worth of our precious and finite resource.  After this information came out, the government amended that agreement to charge a pissant, nominal fee.

F racking for LNG is the only idea this government has for BC, other than Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan, run of river Hydro-electric and flooding the Peace River Valley to power the above projects.  Fracking is devastating to fresh water supplies.  So is running pipelines through headwaters, over rivers and then onto tidewater.

T he American Military has properly pinpointed fresh water as the probable source of war in the future.  A litre of tapwater costs about $1.99 at the store, more expensive than gasoline or coca cola.  Water is more valuable than LNG.  bitumen, or dubious P3 Hydro electric projects yet we are literally pissing it away.  The American west and Australia are currently experiencing severe drought, both heavily into fracking.  Tug of War battles are erupting between stakeholders, large cities like Vegas, with all of the ostentious use of water as mirage in the desert, agriculture running the full range of corporate agribiz growing alfalfa to ship to China, to breadbasket of America, to boutique wineries and cutting edge organics.  Everyone needs water.

I f I were planning long term policy, I would be safeguarding this resource for the sovereign good of the people.  Water needs to be more than a human right, but an planetary right, in that the planet needs to have rights, instead of corporate personhood.

I expect my government will punish the ratepayers directly, so that we can continue to subsidize industrial use.  Rural areas will continue to bear the burden of conservation, while urban and industrial use flourishes in a completely unrestrained orgy of cognitive dissonance.

I f you are tempted to powerwash your driveway, or run cold, clean, precious water down the drain while you brush your teeth, remember how precious this resource is.

* When we moved in two years ago, the price was $100.  40 % rise in two years.  They also used to give the 10th load free.  Gone.
Rates are set to rise by another $40.  I’m doomed.

9 comments to “Water, Water Everywhere…

  • Priscilla Judd

    Great post Kim.

    Water is so important – I am so glad you pointed that out and guess who else is also speaking up for water? Yup… Maude Barlow:

    “First, water is a human right and must be more equitably shared. The United Nations has recognized that drinking water and sanitation are fundamental rights and that governments have obligations not only to supply these services to their people but also to prevent harm to source water.”

    “Second, water is a common heritage of humanity and of future generations and must be protected as a public trust in law and practice. Water must never be bought, hoarded, sold, or traded as a commodity on the open market and governments must maintain the water commons for the public good, not private gain.”

    “Third, water has rights too, outside its usefulness to humans. Water belongs to the Earth and other species. Our belief in “unlimited growth” and our treatment of water as a tool for industrial development have put the earth’s watersheds in jeopardy. Water isn’t merely a resource for our convenience, pleasure, and profit. It’s the essential element in a living ecosystem. We need to adapt our laws and practices to ensure the protection of water and the restoration of watersheds — a crucial antidote to global warming.”

    So… if you want to read more I pasted the link below but I really think your post brought home to me… here in BC… just how close are we to being an impoverished wasteland. All that lies between have and have not is water, making the difference between life and death.

    in Peace and with hope – Priscilla

    Kim Reply:

    Priscilla, as always, thank you.

  • Owen Gray

    An excellent post, Kim. Those of us who rely on wells know how precious water is. I suspect the people in power simply turn on taps and have never had to deal with a dry well.

  • scotty on Denman

    I’m in agreement—except for the flagging cedars as harbingers of drought. Cedar leaves are scale-like, overlapping and interlocked, unlike need-like leaves on other conifers, so they can’t be shed individually at the end of their useful lifetime—about three or four years—like other conifers can. Instead, cedars shed whole fronds of leaves all at once, the orange-red, or “flagging”, phase making the whole tree look like it’s sick when it’s actually doing what it normally does. Mistaking normal flagging in cedar (any cedar species, and probably most trees in the cypress family) for sickness was the most common source of alarm amongst clients of mine. It’s more noticeable on cultivated trees because they are usually open-grown with dense foliage close to the ground so it’s easy to see ( contrast wild stands where foliage is way high up, sparse and hard to see clearly–but they flag too); homeowners tend to focus intimate, perhaps overweening, interest in a particular specimen. Your cedars may indeed be expressing some symptoms of drought but that can’t be categorically concluded by flagging foliage, which is normal in cedar.

    It seems counter-intuitive that some tree species demonstrate drought tolerance by being able to live in swamps, like cedar; all tree roots need air to absorb water efficiently, otherwise they drown; drought-tolerant species have extremely fine roots and thus a relatively huge absorption surface area, making them very good at getting water and able to grow in dry, rocky soil—or around swamps where water, though plentiful, is difficult to absorb from saturated soils. That’s why cedar and lodgepole pine, for example, can be seen on rocky knobs and in swamps.

    Cedars have a peculiar ability to top-die and survive. Most other species, when they die back from drought, they’re goners. Not cedar. It might have something to do with the famous durability of cedar wood: dead cedar tops, the grey candelabras and spires commonly seen in cedar stands, do not host fungal decay (the only conk I’ve ever seen on a cedar was a root pathogen and extremely rare in any case) whereas dead tops of other tree species are usually quickly colonized by some fungus or other (there are many kinds here in BC) which may assist in the hosts’ demise. Purely conjecture on my part. Anyways, see a cedar with the top half dead…probably drought; usually happens in one season. The difference is every single leaf (on the affected top half), not discrete fronds here and there, turns red and dies.

    Tree pathogeny is complex so I hesitate when it comes to rules of thumb. Nevertheless, I think I’ll risk proclaiming hemlock as being the canary-in-the-mine species when it comes to drought. Might have enough time to pump out a heavy distress cone crop a year or so before dying. Hemlock seems to wink out suddenly and, if it does, drought is usually the cause.

    Finally, maples, particularly big-leaf maple (our maple on the coast), have no summer dormancy period like most other species, therefore their water demand is “awake” all summer; water deficit is expressed by aborting leaves from the top of the crown, extending down as far as the tree needs to conserve water—even to the extent of completely defoliating the tree. I’ve seen such maples re-foliate in October; unfortunately, if it hasn’t time to re-develop buds for the following spring, it will die the following spring.

    We missed out on rain the whole month of November—never saw this before. Be interesting to see what gonna happen. Don’t know what it’ll be but it will definitely be something. I can’t see, at this point, any amount of rain that will make up for that missing November.

    Good luck with everything.


    Kim Reply:

    Scotty, thank you for the clarification on trees. I understand that flagging happens as a normal course and have seen the candlabra spires in the low lying parts of graham island and other swampy areas, but I’m noticing very sparse trees, not dead tops, but defoliating outward and upward, without much left for foliage except the tips. I am not a biologist, nor an arbourist, forester, or even a technician though, so I should refrain from speculation in that regard. The arbutus seem to be sickly as well.

    The defoliation pattern you speak of in the bigleaf maples I noticed last year as well. The alders did it too.

    scotty on Denman Reply:

    Good eye, Kim. Indeed alders were doing the same defoliation as maples and, as I would have mentioned had I known what a good eye you have, they’re doing it for the same reasons, that is, alders also do not have summer dormancy (along with its fellow birch-family members) and tries to conserve water by aborting foliage. Arbutus, on the other hand, are normally extremely drought tolerant; the defoliation noticeable everywhere within its BC range has been attributed to a fungal disease, from California, that also attacks rhododendrons. I’m not too familiar with it (it postdates my retirement and arbutus, not being a commercial species, was never my purview anyways) but, anecdotally: like other so-called “evergreens”, arbutus keeps its leaves for three or four years before withdrawing green chlorophyl leaving the leaves brown and ugly—at least until they fall off; sometimes this can look even more alarming that cedar flagging; however, if leaves younger than three or four years are dying, which, when you think about it, will eventually defoliate the tree completely—you know you probably got something outside the norm going on. I haven’t heard any great alarm being raised (it probably would have come from rhodo-enthusiasts) so I assume the disease is transitory or episodic like dogwood leaf-curl; trees that can handle a couple years of partial defoliation will survive.

    Never refrain from speculation; as long as one isn’t dogmatic about it, it’s often the nucleus of understanding and, at the very least, source of more questions. All the years I worked in the woods taught me if you don’t see something that’s totally puzzling every single day, you’re probably not doing your job. Well, that and the fact that we probably see only 10%—at best—of what’s really going on. The view from the porch provides a lifetime of discovery.

    Kim Reply:

    Your insights are welcome Scotty, thank you for helping us understand. I have the good fortune to live in a second or third growth forest of red cedar, maple, alder, fir and hemlock. There are a couple of high stumps on the property that I like to imagine my great grandfather may have harvested. While I am no expert, I do take the stewardship of the land seriously and enjoy being a cohabitant of this ecosystem. The behaviour of the deer alone is astounding. Nature can be uncomprimising at times. I’ve been fortunate to witness bucks sparring, does chasing eachother off the property, even beating eachother up. I’ve seen them chase off last years fawn and know that they are ready to give birth again. Black bears roll through occasionally. One actually woke us up at 5 AM, breaking into the deep freeze. Never seen a cougar yet, but sometimes I feel watched. Quail, stellar jays, ravens and eagles. I am blessed to have this education. One day, I’ll post a photo album.

  • scotty on Denman

    I’m happy you find my missives of some use. Sounds like you have as much expertise as a patch of forest needs—that is, it sounds like you are observant and you care.

    Been hangin’ out in the BC woods for over forty years now, only seen cougar twice, both times they didn’t know I was there (pretty awesome, though, I must say). Many’s the time I’ve followed my tracks in the snow out of the woods and realized I was being followed most of the day by a big cat. Found some cougar scat about ten feet from my front door last fall; I could tell because it had both a deer’s hoof and a cat’s skeleton in it. Also, I hadn’t seen my own feral cat (that’s an oxymoron, I know) for a few days: he was smart enough to make himself scarce. But, you know what?…I would never have known unless I took a closer look at that turd in my driveway. They’re regularly seen across the Sound here, so many of ‘em the young males swim across (about a mile) to find their own space. Buddy of mine followed one in his boat while he was fishing—it was on its way to Hornby Island. Swimming’s easy for them. Bears swim over, too, at least one a year.

    A lot of the old cedar stumps around my place, springboard notches and all, have full-on trees growing out of them, kind of like giant flower pots.

    I expect to find some more fawn carcasses when the snow melts–the harsh side of nature. I find a few each spring. They’re too small to keep warm and the cedar foliage they stuff themselves with apparently has little caloric value.

    Yes, we truly are blessed. I hope you put that photo album together. Can’t wait for you to post it. Thanx.

    Kim Reply:

    My favourite has to be the huckleberries growing out of the stumps. We have salmon berry out here on the west coast too. A member of the rose family, the fresh spring shoots are sweet and an historic native staple. The berries are the colour of salmon eggs. Wild onion, ginger, alpine strawberries and blueberries and salal berries.

    I’ve never identified cougar scat or seen tracks on the property, yet…