I am fascinated with the difference between how humans manage water in the desert and what the water is actually doing. Where, for instance, does the water go? Into the ground. What lies under the soil? Rock. What lies inside the rock? Water. What happens when you cut the rock to make a road? Water comes out.
Road Cut into Bedrock, Okanagan Landing
When the water returns from the rock and is exposed to the air, it leaves salt behind. An interesting form of mining, for sure.
There’s something fascinating going on here. In a dry landscape, almost visibly barren of water, even the solid rock beneath the hills is bleeding water, yet humans bring all their water down from the high country, and then evaporate the bulk of it with irrigation until it is mostly gone to the valley, as in the case of the evaporated, wasted water pouring out of the rock above. This is the process by which the ancient civilizations of Mesopatamia turned the Garden of Eden into salt. Here, however, is another picture of the same road cut – seven years old — in which something different is happening. Take a look:
Water Gardens in the Rock
Grass rooting in a wall of solid rock, and fed by water seeping down through cracks in the bedrock itself. Notice the diminished amount of evaporated salts.
What an untapped resource. Shouldn’t we be planting crops on these cliffs? Are we truly serious about maximizing our water in this landscape, and by that, I mean are we truly serious about learning the land’s lesson that the water can be passed on again and again, unless it is exposed to the air: at that point it is lost? Of course, it’s not just the roadcut that offers niche water environments. It is also the roads themselves. Here is Orchard Hill Road in Vernon:
Grass Doing Away With the Need for Storm Drains
Our rock gardens don’t just have to be vertical. Our roads can be gardens, taking in carbon monoxide, breathing out oxygen, and absorbing runoff fuels.
This is the way our bunchgrass works: draw in the water from a large area; concentrate it at a central point; make use of it right there. The alternative is this:
Orchard Hill Road After a Snowfall
Rivers of oil like this flow down the road and into the storm drains, where it eventually finds its way into Okanagan Lake, and from there into Okanagan River, and the salmon reds of Nk’mip, and onto the skin of tourists floating on Osoyoos Lake.
Crops, pollution containment, reduced infrastructure costs? It’s all about keeping water away from the air. It’s all about keeping water from moving, for as long as possible. Once we adopt this principle into our water management plans, we’ll start to get away from the cycles of abundance and drought that plague us today.
Pretty cool, huh!