by Charlene Burgi
Ann Vallee, the invaluable person behind the scenes of this blog who works in Public Information at MMWD, recently took an amazing trip to India. Knowing my interest in irrigation, she sent pictures of cattle tethered to a Persian water wheel. As they walked in circles, the cattle turned a series of gears that caused a chain of buckets to lift water up from a well. The water then poured into a system of troughs that ran out to the fields to water the crops, or it could be collected in a vessel for household use.
She also spoke of public water wells in villages where people washed clothes and dishes, bathed, and filled their pots with the precious liquid to carry home—some feat as one gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds! And what can you do with just one gallon of water? (This is a test question!)
Ann’s stories reminded me of a Greek garden I designed some years back. The family was from Greece and recalled similar public water fountains from their past life. They asked me to include a fountain in the garden as a daily reminder of the luxury they now enjoy by just turning on the tap. (The garden fountain was designed with a water-saving recirculating pump, unlike the free-flowing fountains they experienced in Greece.)
These descriptions of how people live made me think. Life in Lassen County has given me a new perspective on living conditions, but none as far removed as our friends in India or other places around the world. Things I took for granted in Marin are not as readily accessible here. I tend to think before acting now: Can I leave the lug of oranges that our dear friends shared with us in the back of the truck overnight? Or will they be solid balls of orange ice in the morning? Can I run out for an errand without carrying a heavy coat in the car? Or will I get caught by a major drop in temperature before coming home?
I am also more aware of the weather conditions. If a storm is coming in, is the generator fueled up and close by to plug into the house if the lights go out? Preparing for winter in Marin included storing a few candles and making certain there were working batteries in flashlights. The impact here is more than just losing electricity. In this valley we now call home, we are totally dependent on electricity to get water to the house—something I never worried about in Marin. Water is now stored in the garage to use conservatively until power is restored to the pump house that sits 1,100 linear feet away and 70 feet lower in elevation than the house. (Advanced test question: What is the friction loss of 1½ inch PVC pipe running 1,100 feet, and how many pounds per square inch (PSI) are lost rising 70 feet?)
Do you realize the same concerns, calculations, and need for power exist in Marin? The difference is you generally don’t need to think about it because MMWD is handling all that behind the scenes. Water must be pumped from lakes to treatment plants, from treatment plants to water storage tanks, and sometimes from storage tanks to your homes. My hat is off to the people at MMWD who assess the demands for each tank, calculating exactly how much water your neighborhood uses at any given time to assure the tanks are at the capacity needed to deliver that water to you—not to mention the engineers who calculate friction losses along miles of pipeline as well as how many pounds of pressure and gallons per minute are available per meter. The district has generators and staff ready to go at any given moment, so that even when you turn on the faucet in a power outage, you have water. It seems as easy as flipping a switch; the reality is it is a luxury taken for granted. And believe me, yours truly did just that for years!
There is someone that I mentioned last week who doesn’t take water for granted. Brad Lancaster will be in the Bay Area this coming week. Brad has taught in many Third World countries and countries that live with an ongoing shortage of water. He lives in Tuscan, Arizona—situated at the end of the tap of the Colorado River. Brad walks the walk as well as talks the talk by utilizing and maximizing available water in a fashion that would lead you to think otherwise if you saw the lush beauty surrounding his home. Come listen and learn about conservation from this man who turns soil into living sponges. Hope to see you there.
And speaking of great learning opportunities, landscape professionals may be interested in the next Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) training course starting February 25, followed by the QWEL Graywater training starting March 25. Both classes will be in Santa Rosa. See the flier for details.
As for the test questions, please share your answers below. Let’s see how creative you are with one gallon of water, and how many of the pros come up with the correct answers to friction loss and PSI loss!