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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Short grasses make
tall demand for water

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

We know beyond a doubt that up through the 1860s, millions of buffalo, deer, antelope and all species of Great Plains wildlife roamed at will from Canada to Mexico. Now, add the Native Americans, trappers and hunters, wild horses and cattle and an army or two traveling the region. Each individual animal and human required a certain amount of water each day to survive. The total required would run into millions of gallons per day.

We also know that at this time there were no water wells, dams, irrigation wells, pumps or storage tanks to supply this daily demand. There were no more creeks or rivers than exist today and the average annual rainfall was most likely, average. Where did these animals and humans find water to exist?

A hint of explanation can be found in the chronicles of the Spanish explorers who said they encountered "seas of tall grasses waving in the wind." They seldom mentioned trees or brush and had trouble finding wood for campfires. Almost never did they mention lack of water. The same with the armies later who seldom mentioned trouble finding water. Even later, the vast trail herds traveled the Great Plains with little trouble finding water.

The only logical explanation is, every draw, arroyo or low lying area contained a seep or live water spring. These bogs, creeks and playa lakes supplied the water needs of a nomadic population.

Why aren't the same conditions here today? Because we do not have the seas of belly-deep grasses to hold back the rainfall until it can seep down into the soil. Our present day short grasses, plowed land, heavy brush and square miles of asphalt and concrete allow the rainfall to run off and down the drains and rivers instead of soaking into the soil recharging the aquifers. The runoff now requires huge flood-control dams, canals, and levies to hold the water in check.

Sadly, the flood-control projects merely slow the water on its way to the oceans. Meanwhile, evaporation and percolation diminishes the total while silt and toxic wastes pollute the rest. The old seeps, springs and bogs are no more. To find adequate water to exist we dig and pump deeper wells lowering the aquifer more and more.

A graphic illustration of just what we have available to us "if" we claim it in some way is, an inch of rain water falling on an acre of land, (208 sq. feet), totals 27,153.6 gallons. Multiply this by 20 inches average rainfall or whatever your average is, totals 543,072 gallons of water that falls on each acre or part acre you own. Picture 20 inches of water, if it all fell at once, standing on the level on your property. That means the tall boots of a cowboy would be filled to the top.

I believe these figures are very close to accurate which means the Good Lord is giving us plenty of moisture to meet our needs in an average year. That leaves only one culprit to blame for our water problem woes, you and me!


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" January 20, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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