By Jacob Condo, Staff Writer
After what was without a doubt an extremely dry summer, more than half of Massachusetts is still experiencing what can only be categorized as extreme drought.
If you walk down the path next to the windmill that stretches behind the Dells, you’ll find that our woods are still green and lush from the summer months. The birds chirrup and forage for food among the undergrowth, and all seems well, if a bit dry.
This hides something that’s unsettling. If you walk down the trail to where you’re supposed to find the shallow edges of Dell Pond, you’ll find only a mile of mud and lilies. The pond has almost dried up completely.
What better illustrates the plight more than half of Massachusetts finds itself in?
Across the northeastern portion of the state, a drought has been taking place: It is the most severe drought since droughts began being monitored in 1999. Entire townships now have to buy water from other sources because their reservoirs have all but dried up.
Several municipalities had to contact the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) for assistance in supplying themselves with water.
While their reservoirs have enough to supply a lot of people with water for several years of drought, the situation is still serious.
Farms across the state are now expecting heavy hits on their crop yield while they try and affordably irrigate their fields. While this might not seem dire, we’ll all be feeling the pinch in our wallets if we haven’t already, but it’s not just people having problems either.
As this drought carries on into autumn, we also run the risk of wildfires. While we in the swampy woods have had less to fear than others, the danger will become very real once the leaves begin to fall. Piles upon piles of potential tinder, and none of it looking to date us.
With that in mind, the water restrictions are probably making a bit more sense. No shiny cars or green lawns for anyone in this extreme drought zone. What’s really troubling is that other than limiting water use, there’s really not much to be done.
Sure, it’s possible to move water from place to place and make sure you’re not using more than you need, but there’s no making more water. All you can do is pray for rain, and we may not get enough this year to alleviate this drought.
We are a species that has conquered the planet, wiped out entire ecosystems, changed the climate (which is possibly what’s giving us our current problems), and walked on the moon. Yet, we are so remarkably fragile, and susceptible to the whims of nature.
It makes things such as desalination plants seem like a whole lot more sense. It also makes things like fracking and water-way-crossing oil pipelines seem like suicidal lunacy. Hint: it’s because it is.
While entire crops are lost to withering, there are people out there putting our water (and therefore our lives) at risk to generate electricity in ways that time and time again have proven dangerous. Take, for example, the situation in Alabama and Georgia.
The two states had to declare a state of emergency after yet another oil pipeline spilled. Luckily the spill has been contained, but it got uncomfortably close to the Cahaba River, which is home to a very rich and expansive ecosystem.
Why do we keep building these things near waterways when we know it’s only a matter of time before it spills?
While we contemplate that, we should perhaps be wondering how humanity plans to deal with its global water bill. Every year, there are millions upon billions more of us, each needing food, water, and shelter.
Even if we stop being idiots about wasting water (don’t get me started on the cattle and manufacturing industries) it won’t be enough for everybody unless we learn to curb our numbers—which we probably won’t.
We need to learn to make water synthetically, or dig into our pockets and go out to get some more.
Take, for instance, the space program. Floating out in space are moons, planetary rings, and other celestial bodies full of ice. Ice that is gathered and generated by the brutal laws of physics which can be melted down into drinkable water. All we need to do is go out and get it.
With the annual budget for NASA already agreed on, we might just be on our way to making that possible.
While it seems far-fetched and that we’re delving too far into the realms of science fiction, the future could prove it not only to be possible but probable.
While we pray that we don’t run out of water here in Massachusetts, we must hope that droughts will one day be a thing lost to history.
Until then, all we can do is keep an eye out for more rain, which we thankfully received during the last week.