ChiloquinNews article, Feb 25th, 2013…
Water is everywhere yet it is often not noticed. It comes out of the faucet and disappears down a drain, yet most people could not tell you how it got to the faucet or where it went from the drain. Here in this area we are much more aware of water because a lot of us have our own wells and our septic fields to think about, and are surrounded by wetlands and water wars, but even so, how many of us actually know what is in our water?
Water is an almost magical thing. It is required for all life, and makes up most of life (around 70% of a human). It can exist as calming lakes and streams, terrifying tsunamis and avalanches, and exciting river rapids and ski slopes. We see it as rain, fog, snow, ice and steam, as a blessing or as a curse, but sometimes even though we see the water, we don’t see what it is doing for us.
Take the wetlands, for example. For many years they were considered a waste land where all that water just lay about and got in the way of ranching and development. All across the country wetlands were drained to put the land to ‘better’ use. Only recently have people begun to see that the wetlands serve a purpose and it’s a very important one. Wetlands clean up our water. How? All those plants that thrive in wet places, do so because they suck up the nutrients that are dissolved in the water. They grow tall and luxuriant, and as the water moves on it contains less nutrients. And why does that matter? Because when that water reaches a drier area and evaporates, there are not so many salts left behind to turn the land into a salty desert. That means that people down there can still drink that water and still use it to grow food.
Now a lot of people think that the water company will clean up the water, so why do we need wetlands as well? It’s not so easy as all that. When a water company cleans our water it does so by dosing it with chlorine to kill the ‘bad bugs’ and it filters out the sticks, nasties and mud, but it can’t do much about the dissolved things in the water. And water does love to dissolve things. If you are living in a city now, your water most likely contains traces of anti-depressants and other assorted popular drugs, insecticides, fertilizers, gasoline and various industrial solvents, just to name a few. Water companies test, but certainly not for everything, and their acceptable levels of contamination are not necessarily the same as mine. Not only that, but we’ve managed to contaminate the vast amount of water that makes up the earth’s oceans, so that way out to sea there are areas where samples of water contain micro particles of plastic and styrofoam. As a gardener in this area, I do not fertilize my plants. There’s no need. My water comes out of the ground already containing ammonia and phosphate and although not harmful to drink, I usually don’t. Many years ago, before I moved to Chiloquin I started distilling all the water that I drink and I’ve kept it up. I really don’t want second hand drugs.
In addition to an amazing clean up job, wetlands do other things. In areas that flood, they fill up first and lessen the impact. They filter out soil from storm runoff, keeping rivers less muddy and making life possible for those fish and other amphibians that need clear water to spawn. They provide food for many insects which in turn provide food for the fish which are born and thrive there because of the abundance of food and hiding places for the fry. In this continuous chain, migratory birds use wetlands to nest and raise their young, because of the abundance of insects and fish to feed them. 43% of U.S. threatened and endangered species rely on wetlands for their survival.
I feel very privileged to live close enough to a wetland that I can watch the comings and goings of the seasonal visitors, to paddle out in a canoe and feel the silence, or to hear wind whip across open expanses of water and tulles. The redwing blackbirds arrived back today. Hearing their sreeeeee from across the still frozen water put a smile on my face.