Sunday, December 21, 2014

Our Most Important Element
April 3, 2014 by John Parker | No Comments

Sometimes we have too much of it. Other times not enough. It is one of the most common, yet important elements we have on this…

Sometimes we have too much of it. Other times not enough. It is one of the most common, yet important elements we have on this earth. And many of us take it for granted.

This common, but essential element is water. Without it there would be no life on this earth, nothing. We cannot ignore its importance.

Yes, with weather like we had in many local areas last fall, we had too much water. It caused local farmers many harvesting problems. Fields were muddy from too much rain. Combines could not run to harvest the ripe corn and soybeans. When they did get in the fields, they cut them up with their tracks. This spring, farmers will pay the price for that in cultivating cutup fields that have to be smoothed out.

Predictions are that some parts of the Midwest will have floods this spring as the snow all melts and rains come. Just how much flooding and where is not yet known.

Looking at the other side of the coin, about 99 percent of the state of California is in a drought. Water supplies out there are at a critical stage. Apparently California hasn’t been this dry in 500 years. Every drop of water is critical.

Far-reaching impacts are expected because of that water shortage. We will feel it here through higher prices for fruits and vegetables. Recently the entire state of Arizona was declared a drought area.

In 2011, some local areas experienced near drought conditions. Northern Ashtabula County had some serious crop losses because of dry weather. Thankfully, areas to the south got more rain. But, the dry weather caused some farmers to be very aware of their need for enough water to keep crops growing and produce their harvest.

All too often we do not realize the importance of water until we are personally affected because of a shortage. Or, the disastrous effects from a flood that areas of the mid-west often experience.

If we live in town and are on a village or city water system, we usually do not appreciate a good water supply until something happens. A water line breaks and when we turn on the faucet, nothing comes out. No water. Then we begin to think more about its importance to us.

If we are going to be without water for several days, we get really concerned. We need water to drink in order to live. So, we may resort to bottled water for drinking. But what about washing dishes, showers or water to flush our toilets? The needed water is not there. Then, we begin to realize the importance of a good water supply.

In the western areas where they are experiencing drought, emergency water conservation measures have been taken. Many farmers have been cut off from their usual allocation of water. Estimates are that over 500,000 acres will not be planted to fruits and vegetables this year because there is not enough water for irrigation needs.

Homeowners have been asked to conserve water. Watering lawns is not allowed in some areas. Limiting water use in the home is encouraged, as are shorter showers, limiting the use of dish and clothes washers and more.

Programs need to be put in place to capture excess water when available. Thankfully, many lakes and reservoirs have been built and more are needed to satisfy the long run need for water.

Research is being done to develop drought resistant crops and fruits. Some progress is being made with drought resistant corn. Genetic changes in seeds are important in hastening this research.

Most of all, we need an expanded educational program to make us more aware of the importance of water and what we need to do to have enough for the future. For now, let’s have some dryer weather so local farmers can get their crops planted.

Parker is retired from The Ohio State University and an independent agricultural writer.

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