Water: so much to love, so much to lose

The Green Springs: we have water in our name, and water is what many people love about our little piece of paradise. Applegate Trail pioneers camped here and no doubt found fresh water bubbling from the ground to be a significant improvement over the sparse, tepid pools of the Black Rock Desert. Their descendants still trek up from the Rogue Valley to fill bottles at Tub Springs. Many of them also bring kayaks, fishing poles and swimsuits.

Now comes the scary part. Most of our water comes to us in the form of snow. Normally, snow accumulates during the winter and melts off for most of the summer. Streams and rivers flow. Our lakes, which are actually reservoirs, usually stay full into the fall.

This winter we saw minimal snow and no pack. At our elevation, 4,500 feet, accumulation was zero. Higher up, the snowpack is at or below historic lows.

This is unsettling for all sorts of reasons. Talent Irrigation District, which manages the water in our neighborhood, expects to cut off deliveries by mid-September (and that may be optimistic). Think about what this will mean for pears and grapes.

In dry years, Ashland (which has only about a week of storage capacity in Reeder Reservoir) draws some Green Springs water from TID. This year, it looks like our supply will run out just about when Ashland really needs it.

Then there is the “f” word. The past couple of weeks, we have seen what drought means in San Diego County. That drought is headed north. OK, I’ll say it. Fire is coming.

So what the heck are we thinking? In the short term, we need to scramble for water to drink and irrigate crops. We need to plan fire defenses. But we know that this is just the beginning. We know that we are looking at climate change, and it’s all about carbon. We know that the civilization train is running straight off the rails, and not in slow motion. (Sorry, deniers, no more time to be polite about this.)

So why are we still talking about spending billions on pipelines for tar sands petroleum and rail systems for sending coal to China? Why are we still cutting down our forests when we need them to lock up carbon? Why aren’t we making serious investments in carbon-free energy? Everything should be on the table, from wave power to nuclear fusion.

Let’s put it this way: The United States alone spent around $8 trillion dollars on the so-called Cold War. That was about ideology. Now we face certain catastrophe and it’s not a fight about ideas. This is about physics and it’s about survival. Can’t we find a few trillion more and keep human history going a bit longer?