The Water Carriers
Thoughts on a dry well
by Peter Huntley
Those of us living on the periphery of Ann Arbor sometimes suspect that urbanites, with their connection to the city's water mains, are missing the satisfaction of self-reliance and even the potential excitement that comes with having one's very own water supply.
Living on Delhi Road these past ten years, we have been proud owners of a well from which we have been able, at any time, to take all the fresh water we can reasonably desire. At any time, that is, except when we have an electric power outage--or, as recently, when we have systemic problems.
We first noticed that the showers were no longer giving the same energized, youthful spray they had when we moved in. Week by week, the situation grew worse, until the day when turning the faucet to maximum produced nothing but one last, feeble drop. Here we were in the heart of Michigan, famous throughout the world for its abundance of fresh water, and totally devoid of water of any kind.
Experts were called in. The well drilling people recommended a new well. The plumber advised that new piping was in order. The water treatment equipment was also in need of major upgrading. While all these plans were being put into effect, Jenny and I joined a health club. The Public Baths, that great institution, are all but extinct in America, and so we took up membership at the nearest equivalent. We appreciated all the health club apparatus but none more so than anything which involved water. Also I obtained five-gallon water jars and filled them frequently from the hose at our office building.
The economist Chris Martenson has pointed out that energy conversion devices plus fuel have put at our disposal the equivalent of vast numbers of slaves--that in fact, today's average homeowner is served by the equivalent of a far larger retinue than any Eastern potentate ever had. After this experience, I would put water carriers high up on that list of
virtual servants. I had absolutely no concept of the volume of a toilet water tank until I carried up the stairs enough water to refill it several times a day. I resolved that if ever we get past this current crisis, I shall for a long time to come give thanks to the band of silent, invisible water carriers, cheerfully climbing our stairs at all hours, each with a full five-gallon bottle of water poised on his head.
In due course, the work was completed and all systems were "go." There was a rush to the showers. Clear, sparkling silver streams of water gushed out, each stream the coalescing of countless droplets, each droplet like a polished crystal. After overcoming a brief awed silence of grateful astonishment, we broke into a dance. It was a wild dance, complete with feathers. It was the dance of the rainmaker, when the rain finally comes.
[Originally published in April, 2013.]