Be grateful for crystal clear water supply

Be grateful for crystal clear water supply By Bob Karolevitz Water is another one of those things we South Dakotans take for granted.

We swim, fish, boat, bathe and ski in it. We cook with it, drink it, irrigate with it, flush it and baptize with it. All the while we seldom give that all-purpose element a second thought � except when there's too much or too little.

The six-inch rain with flash floods and overflowing lakes invariably makes the news. Sandbags to hold back high waters are always good photo-ops, while displaced persons in a rowboat in four feet of water on Main Street get front-page coverage.

On the flip side is drouth. Older folks remember the Dust Bowl of the Dirty Thirties with pictures of the cracked earth, dried-up sloughs and gaunt cattle. Farmers since then have experienced occasional rainfall shortages, with fretful looks at the sky while corn leaves shriveled and soybean pods never filled out.

In our case I think we have dwelt too much on water problems without being thankful for the never-ending supply which comes by just turning on the tap. Millions of people in Third World countries don't have that luxury.

When we moved to the farm, we first depended on hard, mineral-laden water from two wells. The windmill pumped a tankful for the livestock � when the sandpoint wasn't plugged up. The second one served household uses, but it had lots of drawbacks.

The rusty water left stains in the bathtub, the flush tank was red and there were carbonate deposits on the faucets. We had to take our dirty clothes to the laundromat because all the whites turned orange at home.

Drinking water tasted funny, but what was even worse was the effect it had on coffee � and bourbon, too! They ended up as black as the ace of spades.

We finally had to go to town with five-gallon plastic jug to get city water which was an

immeasurable improvement, even when it had a lingering aroma of chlorine.

And then came the rural water system!

Like REA, it changed our way of life for the much, much better. At first we had a few leaks in the pipeline, but that was understandable. One of the members of the young crew which hooked us up was a scantily clad gal of appropriate proportions. The guys on the job spent too much time looking at her rather than at the connections they were supposed to be making.

(I wanted to go down and inspect the work, but Phyllis wouldn't let me. I wonder why?)

We enjoy water aerobics, hot tubs and Jacuzzis, but neither of us cares much for swimming. We don't even wade very well. In my youthful days I preferred the sandlot baseball diamond rather than a dip in the city's artesian-fed Orange Aide Pool.

Phyllis ��when she was just a little girl � was pushed off a slide and held under water till it seemed like she was going to drown. She's avoided pools ever since, even when I thought she looked like Esther Williams in a bathing suit. But I digress!

The scientists tell us that the total quantity of water on and in the earth never changes. It just moves around a lot. Only about 3 percent is fresh water; the rest is salt. And of that 3 percent, almost three-fourths is useless to man, since it is contained in polar ice and glaciers. What that means is that we in South Dakota are mighty fortunate to have so much of the unsalty kind.

So the next time you turn on the spigot, you can be grateful that the H2O which gushes forth is part of the hydrological cycle which keeps us all alive.

Of course, I don't expect you to do a thanksgiving rain dance for each cupful, but it wouldn't hurt if we gave it a little thought now and then. I tell Phyllis that even when our towels and T-shirts turned orange, at lease we weren't Gobi-like then; and now there's a night-and-day difference.

Oh, by the way, we've figured out that the bottled water you buy for a buck is a lot more expensive than gas. Come to think of it, maybe we should have even more respect for that colorless, odorless liquid we all take for granted.

© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz

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