Human engineering rearranges landscapes to make water flow. This is a curious thing when a landscape is renowned for being short of water. Since the human carrying capacity of the Okanagan has already been exceeded, we need to get smarter, soon.
Seasonal Runoff Stream
Too Much Water Moving Too Fast
Why on earth do we want this stuff to flow? Is it because water engineering systems were developed for other conditions and no one bothered to make alterations? You’d almost think so. At any rate, the natural anti-erosion system of the streambed has a different goal:
Looking the other way from the eroded streambed above, we see natural processes attempting to hold on to water for as long as they can. When it moves, it moves as much through life as it does as elemental water.
That’s one way of holding on to water. There’s another:
Holding Water in Place
All you gotta do is freeze it. This is water that flowed slowly, over weeks, from the bank above it. Now it’s stopped dead in its tracks.
Our water reservoirs store water for about six months of every year. Ice does the same. Instead of letting our fall water pour away, we could keep it as ice and release it in the spring, when it might take a month’s pressure off of a 4-month irrigation resource — a potential saving of 25%.
This is not a new idea. Arrow-leafed balsam root, those beautiful yellow wild sunflowers of spring, thought of it long ago. Take a look:
The broad leaves of the balsam root, that prevent grasses from growing up in competitioin, wither away by midsummer to leave each balsam root in a small clearing of its own. When the snow falls, the balsam root gets its full benefit, released over time. The plants have effectively lengthened their winter and ensured a wet spring. The snow that fell on the surrounding plants, on the other hand, has already started to move downhill.
Maybe it’s just a matter of words. Our word for an area in which the land collects water and funnels it off through a stream or river system is called a watershed. The German word for the same thing is Wassereinzugsgebiet, or a water catchment area. If you call it a catchment, you concentrate more on holding on. We need that.
After all, it’s a gift. Let’s keep receiving it with grace.
Tomorrow: The amazing story of vole gardens.