Shonto is Navajo for the light that glances off a spring and reflects onto a canyon wall.

About 12 years ago I spoke with a member of the Hitch pig farming family in the Oklahoma panhandle about their use of the Ogallala aquifer and possible problems with seepage from the fecal ponds. I knew the water levels were down and I knew how Oklahomans depend on that water. As it happens, several states depend on that water. And so I became aware, even as I was assured that pig farming and ranching in general don’t affect the water reaching our faucets.

I chose this image of beauty with the aquifer circled in the center rather than a photograph of a pig poo swamp. You’re welcome.

As it happens, Americans use water at a faster rate than it can be regenerated or recharged. What happens in areas where human use has damaged the natural order of things and how long does it take for nature to recover? In my new home in the desert, most of my friends understand the challenges of potable water. When we accepted CAP water, we were assured that it was okay to drink, but warned not to fill our fish tanks with it. Entire neighborhoods here use “reclaimed” water that is transported in lavender pipes to water our landscapes, wash our cars, and so forth. But private golf courses will still use drinking water for their lush desert grass.

New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson recently was blasted when he suggested the Great Lakes, which hold 20% of the world’s freshwater, should truck their glorious resource to drought prone areas, such as the desert. It’s doubtful that even if the GL states were amenable that Canada would comply. We are interested in the use of other people’s resources, but not so much in sharing our own.

Kids around the world struggle with too little water. Check out this amazing gadget – the Q-Drum.

And here we are using it up in unforgivable ways – myself included. Water pours from our spouts while other people are thirsting. This thought needles me constantly.

Our toilets are responsible for 31% of our household water use. If you have an older toilet and allowing “yellow to mellow” grosses you out, fill a soda bottle with sand or rocks or water and drop it in your reservoir tank. It’s not like I’m asking you to go for this:

This is a composting toilet and it’s not entirely horrible. But it’s not a viable option for renters like me and I recognize Americans nearly universally will have a negative gut reaction to it.

I’m not into this corporate green washing crap. It’s true that I loves me some good ol’ timey material consumerism, but buying green may not always be the solution to our environmental problems. New appliances, new light bulbs, new windows, new water heaters, new everything and the old goes to the landfill. Our towns and communities can start projects like the reclaimed water some neighborhoods in Tucson have. We have individual options too such as collecting rain water or gray water for use outside. These options are as simple as putting barrels under your gutter spouts or allowing your washing machine to drain into a barrel.

You’d be amazed at the hidden water use in your daily life, just as you would the amount of oil used in your food production. You like beef? Livestock needs water. You enjoy new toys? Goodies require water in manufacturing. Take a look at your Water Footprint. I recommend the extended calender. What an eye opener!

I know I’m a hypocrite and I have to live with that. But I’m learning and over time I know some of this will sink in for me and I’ll make real changes. With the drought in Atlanta and water scarcities hitting us here at home, it may become forced upon me sooner than I can get my act together and do the right thing. Water is too cheap when we can afford to waste it.

*** UPDATED: To include Q Drum video. ***

2 thoughts on “Shonto

  1. populistpugilist says:

    Of course, the Big Water has problems its own. Radically diminished spring runoff due to miniscule snowfall and soft winter ground–combined with increased evaporation due to longer, hotter summers–has lake levels shrinking.

    Great Lakers are funny about their water (at least, the Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota variety are–can’t speak of the rest). As adamant as they are about not shipping out lake water, they don’t actually consume it themselves (they either drill or dam for their water). I guess it’s more like asking the Parisians to take some steel from the Eiffel Tower and send it off because they’ve used up all their metal in Corsica.

    For a few of the less strictly parochial GLers, it may also look something like drilling for oil in ANWR. This reminds me of my “Bigger Pants Are Not the Answer to Obesity” principle.

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