Water! The lifeblood of the west, of the world, looking down on the waterways from above it does look life veins coming from the heart. We are that heart, the mountains which beckon the clouds to leave behind their watery mist of cold snow or drenching rain. The snow that melts and gives way to the ubiquitous ditch systems of our valley which also look like arteries feeding the fields of our food, will being to fill again. For how long it is too early to say. The snow has not stopped falling despite the temperatures way above normal.
Watching the water is something people spend a lifetime doing. Whether it is on the river fishing, frozen beneath your feet, under your raft or filling the markings on a newly planted field. Many people watch the water down to the very drop. Even the water that falls on your roof has been accounted for, over accounted for actually. So in a year with the mountains not catching their ‘normal’ amounts of water I can feel the temperatures rising.
I have not been through a bad drought year, and am not expecting this year to be one, though the pastures are already drying out. It seems we will be in for a drought year, how bad the April and May showers will let us know. So when you start to think about your water and your neighbor’s water and the water falling on the roof, remain calm. Yes certain things may dry up too soon, it may be hard to get the right amount of water to everything but remember that your neighbor’s water keeps the field next door green and productive.
Having worked at the NRCS I got to see many a dispute about water in my first few years living here. None of them were pretty and at the same time none of them seemed entirely necessary. My neighbor told me of the days when he grew up and the folks at the end of the ditch would start to clean it. As they walked up the next neighbors and perhaps their mule would join in until the whole ditch was being cleaned by the whole ditch. Let’s not forget that ethic of working together for water for all. Too many lawyers being brought in to dispute something that we all already share is worthless and costly at the same time.
The best part is that each year the water teaches me where it wants to go and how. I might want it to go someplace else but it will not be convinced by my markings, all the time. The leaky valve, the broken pipe does not help, but there is nothing that brings us together like the walking in the fields and watching the water flow. So pick up your shovel and walk your ditch with your neighbor and share the shares so that we can all have green pastures, ripe apples, and fresh tomatoes.