Critical situations rarely come one at a time in single file. With unhealthy air quality, covid-19 variants, and extreme heat on our minds, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on other challenges we face this summer, not the least of which is water.
If you missed Connor Sheas’s excellent front-page piece in last week’s Teton Valley News about water supplies, please get that old paper out of the birdcage, clean it off, and read it. We are facing serious trouble this year, and it’s not just the farmers. No living thing, including you and me, can make it for very long without water. Whether we still have any water in our reservoirs and aquifer by the end of the summer depends on what we do now to conserve it.
Professional growers have a complex legal system in place which determines who gets how much available water. It is explained in some detail in last week’s article and lets you understand why Teton Valley is often on the short end of the water stick when water gets scarce. Unfortunately, this is one of those years, but it’s not for lack of growers doing their part. They are doing everything they can to limit water use and use irrigation methods that help recharge the aquifer, that great underground reservoir that so many of us residents, farmers or not, depend on.
The aquifer is a blessing for Teton Valley. But like the man-made reservoirs and the great natural reservoir, the snowpack (now empty), the aquifer does not have an unlimited capacity. Increasing population brings increasing demand. With more wells drawing from the aquifer than ever before, we all have to be very careful about how we use that water, especially in years like this.
Farmers come up with smart, creative ways to grow what all of us need with as little water as possible. As gardeners, we can do the same thing or consider skipping or downsizing the garden this year to save water. Personally, I have cut the size of my garden by more than half this year, and I’m relying on a rain-gutter and bucket irrigation system that lets the plants only take what they need. I use row cover as much as possible to provide shade and slow evaporation. Most of my sprinklers are gathering cobwebs this year, and those that are operating are on strict rations with timers. My gardening is a hobby, not my livelihood, so I don’t mind cutting back for the greater good.
But downsizing your garden isn’t the only way to save water. If you read that article, you’ll find others: letting your grass grow taller, watering in the early morning or evening… bet you can come up with some of your own too. Shower with a friend, drink beer instead of water… yeah, you’ve heard ‘em. But seriously, if there was ever a year to find ways to conserve water, this is it.