Rural Living Taught Me the Value of Water

A farm in Hastings County, eastern Ontario, in a more fruitful, rainier summer.

A farm in Hastings County, eastern Ontario, in a more fruitful, rainier summer.

We city-dwellers are cushioned from certain realities of nature, especially a city like Toronto—set on one of the biggest freshwater lakes in the world that uses Biological Nutrient Removal. I’m talking about the water that we take for granted. Toilets will always flush, and unending streams of water appear at the turn of the tap. We shower, we water our gardens, and our lawns, often without thinking about the valuable resource we use so freely. Rain is an inconvenience, and the TV weather people apologize for it, ruefully. Sorry, you’re going to need an umbrella!

Outside the city, it’s a different story. This summer, with one of the worst droughts since 1988, farmers are losing crops and animals over much of the US and Canada. La Nina has been one reason for it, and climate change another. The lack of rain was coupled with record high temperatures, and the lack of snow last winter worsened the situation.

Ontario has been drought-stricken as well, and farmers are suffering. I have a garden in the country, north of Prince Edward County; the only water source is a well and a rain barrel. The rain barrel was emptied weeks ago, and has been bare since. No rain. The well, usually low in August anyway, is at rock-bottom.

Many trees are bare, with premature leaf drop, and those with leaves are crisp and brown. The perennial garden is dessicated, with no flowers. Pollinators have no nectar. Only super tough plants like Autumn Joy sedum are providing a sweet respite for a few bees. The butterflies have moved on. There isn’t enough well water for household use and the garden, so I have been using a DIY grey-water system, giving select plants water from the dish pan, the shower (the plug stays in), and the dehumidifier. (My weekend discovery: plastic milk holders are perfect for bailing out the bathtub.)  When I carry a full dishpan outside to water the garden, it takes me back in time. I remember my grandmother doing it; and it makes me appreciate every drop of water I have.


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