Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

We have a water problem in our town and the surrounding territory. Our problem is too much water, at least at the moment. Wish we could give some of our "problem" to those parts of the world with the opposite problem of not enough water.

We don't live in a swamp, but there are swampy wetlands all around, separated by rolling hills. We happen to live up on a hill, so there is not much risk of a flood for our house, though others in town closer to the water occasionally experience the joys of too much of a good thing.

In our case, we have a sump pump that we rely on to pump out whatever excess groundwater leaks through the foundation and flows through a "French drain", which is a covered trench just inside the foundation walls, and acc**ulates in the sump pump h***. It has worked well, and we don't have any of the musty basement smell that many houses do.

But today, after two days of rain, and the ground being as saturated as I have ever seen it, the sump pump failed, froze up and blew the circuit breaker. Fortunately we were watching when it happened. Last time this happened, shortly after we moved into the house about 13 years ago, we barely knew what was going on when we woke up to discover about 4 inches of water was already soaking into our still-packed boxes of books and other treasures. Yuck.

This time, with the water level an inch away from overflowing, I had enough time to first borrow a neighbor's pump to clear out some of the excess water. Then I raced out to the Home Depot 20 miles away (it was already evening, after the local hardware store had closed, and they were fresh out of sump pumps anyway since lots of people seem to be having this problem), and pick up a hopefully more durable model. An hour after I left, I get back home and start to install it. Dang, I have the wrong adapter for the hose! The water level in the sump pump h*** is now about half way up to the top, so if I leave now I can go get the part and be back before it is too late. And so that's how I spent my evening, driving back and forth through the rain, avoiding roads already closed due to minor flooding, glad I at least had the opportunity to carry out this wasteful exercise.

The water is pumped out to the yard, by the way, and some of it no doubt finds its way back in, or into my downstream neighbor's house. What we really need to do is find ways to hold onto the water longer, so it doesn't flow down too quickly, flooding the low lands.

This logic of holding onto flood waters seems to have escaped the attention of even the US Army Corp of Engineers. When we lived in Illinois, which has one of its borders along the Mississippi River, the rains were excessive one summer, and thanks to all the levies and channel-digging of the river which was intended to avoid flooding of the neighboring land, the water did not acc**ulate, but rushed on by to make the problem much worse for those unfortunate victims downstream, actually causing worse floods instead of avoiding them.

There is another way we do hold on to water in our town. For some reason that still escapes me, the town never put in a centralized sewer system years ago when it was much cheap than it is now. Instead, each house has a septic tank which acc**ulates solid waste and drains off the overflow liquid into a leaching field, which basically relies on the ground to filter the sewage on its way back into our water supply. Yuck! Seems absolutely crazy to me that we rely on every individual house to do the right thing, and apparently they don't always do that. At least our water supply is centralized and treated rather than being individually pumped by each house from their own water well as it is in the neighboring town.

So what is the point of this little story? It is our local water problem, as minuscule as it is. Maybe it is a slightly worse problem now due to climate change, just as the entire region had a rather severe cold snap and excess snow in recent months - it is difficult to tell, but it certainly could be. We have to deal with it, in any event.

One good thing could come of this experience: it may serve to make a few more local people a bit more sensitive to the troubles of people in distant lands. Dare I say it? Hope springs eternal.

Views: 26

Comment by Shakwei Mbindyo on March 31, 2010 at 5:55am
+1LI. Wow this is eerie! I have posted a blog Too Much v/s Not Enough which somewhat parallels the challenges you are experiencing in your town.
Comment by Rahul Dewanjee on April 1, 2010 at 4:01pm
+1 for KS...my favorite lines here is: Hope springs eternal


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