It doesn’t make any difference whether you’re reading John Nichols’ The Milagro Beanfield War to find out why Joe Mondragon diverted a stream of water for his little bean field. It doesn’t matter if you’re hearing the religious ritual of “No man shall ever again want for water…” in Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel Dune. It doesn’t even count that you’ve been mesmerized by William Ashworth in his history of the Ogallala Aquifer, called Ogallala Blue.
You already knew about the importance of water.
You already knew because you’ve been living on the High Plains. You’ve been watching our water table go down. You’ve had to drill a deeper water well. You’ve been noticing droughts and ditches sifting over with sand. You perhaps have even lived outside of town, on a farm, when your electricity went off.
If that’s you, then you know that no electricity means that your well doesn’t work. Which means you don’t have water to drink or to brush your teeth, or to shower, or, worst of all, even to flush your toilet.
You appreciate water if you’re a resident of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Eastern Colorado.
You would never, like someone I know who came here from Pennsylvania, think you could plant a flower garden in the spring and be surprised to see that everything you had planted had died because you didn’t understand that you were supposed to keep it watered all summer.
You would also never, like my friend who came here from Ohio, let water run in your kitchen sink while you turned around to stack your dish washer.
No. That’s not you.
Instead, you’re the person who read and re-read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath because you knew that story of the dust bowl could be the story of your future.
Or you might be the person who, in appreciation of the apocalyptic prose of Carmac McCarthy, read The Road and felt yourself growing thirsty when the man wasn’t able to find a clean drink of water for his son.
Or perhaps you’re a farmer who needs water for survival, and feels a pang of sorrow every time you see someone’s center pivot splashing water onto a county road instead of on that field of corn.
You understand water.
You even appreciate quotes about water:
W.H. Auden: “Thousands have lived without love. None without water.”
Leonardo da Vinci: “Water is the driving force of all nature.”
Thomas Fuller: “We never know the worth of water till the well runs dry.”
You know the worth of water.
You are a person who lives on the High Plains.
I’m Lynne Hewes. I live in Southwest Kansas, and lately I’ve been thinking about water.