A Farmer Thinks About World Water Day

Today is World Water Day, when most of us do nothing, and when a tiny sample of the world’s richest nation’s population comments briefly and maybe even thinks about the resource that is essential for the life of everyone on the planet.

Here on the farm, we know how important water is. We need it to drink, of course, as does every living thing. We also need it to wash, and to help our plants grow. This year, we have spent a surprising amount of time viewing water as the enemy, because this has been one of the wettest years on record, and erosion has been a constant challenge. So in all its forms, water is a key player at Longleaf Breeze.

Amanda and I anticipate a day when clean and safe water will be far more precious here than it is now, so we’re taking steps to prepare:

  • I never flush the toilet here, because I use the composting toilet and pee outside. When Amanda does, she’s flushing a dual flush toilet that uses as little water as possible.
  • When we built the barn, we attached gutters and directed the water in them to one 6-inch PVC pipe. Right now, that pipe simply discharges down a hill. Our hope is that one day we will pipe it to a rainwater storage tank, from which we will pump water as needed for the household.
  • We will continue to use the well to irrigate crops, but we hope and expect it to be drip, not spray.

The point of this post, though, is not how much we are doing to be responsible but how little.

First, understand that all this erosion we’ve been struggling to control wouldn’t be a challenge if it weren’t for us. There was no erosion problem on Longleaf Breeze until the property was logged by the previous owner and little even after that. The horrendous, vexing, heartbreaking erosion of our topsoil is concentrated in the areas where Amanda and I have made the most changes in the process of conforming the farm to what we think works well for us. I look the enemy in the eye every time I brush my teeth.

We get 52 inches of rainfall in an average year. Do we really need to irrigate our crops? We overwatered last summer, which means our zeal to spray water on our vegetables (no irrigation line in place then!) probably lowered our production rather than raising it. For whatever reason, we’ve decided we need to irrigate. Maybe we’re carefully preparing for those occasional years of extreme drought, or maybe we’re just greedy.

I read with awe and respect those accounts of people who have committed to use no more than 25 liters of water per day, taking steps like washing their bodies only with a damp rag and flushing their toilet only once per day. We shower almost every day. When we don’t it’s because we’re lazy, not virtuous. And we don’t even do the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” thing.

So on this day when a few more people than usual are thinking about how important water is, I am asking myself why I’m not a better steward of this precious resource. In all likelihood, I will do better in years to come, not because I will be a better person then but because I will have no choice. We will all do a better job of conserving water in the future. Might as well get started now.

Leave a Reply