The Last Windrow: Water was on my mind

A reflection on the value of water

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PINE RIVER — I had but one idea on the way home from that hay field in the one hundred 100-degree Iowa heat. Head for the water hydrant.

Water was on my mind.

Water is on my mind this week as we hear more and more about how the water, or lack of it, is affecting we humans who cannot live without it.

My dad told me long ago: "You can't eat gold and you can't drink oil. You can't go without water after a few days."

Those words were true then and they are true now.


I attended a shoe sales conference 25 years ago and a speaker at that conference offered a speech that of all things dealt with water. I thought his topic was rather out of place at a conference that focused on how to sell a pair of shoes.

But there he was up on stage at the podium explaining to his audience how the future would see that water would come to be more precious than gold down the road. It took awhile, but here we are.

John Wetrosky
John Wetrosky (2022)

At our Iowa farm, we drew water from shallow wells through the 1960s. Our wells averaged only 20 to 40 feet deep and provided enough water for both my family and the livestock we raised.

It was good, pure water that didn't require any treatment of any kind. It tasted good. Over the years those same wells began to be tainted with nitrates, no doubt coming from the surrounding fields that were heavily fertilized.

When we left the farm in 1971, farm folks were beginning to drill deeper and some were actually buying water for their personal use.

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The speaker I heard at the shoe conference gave a warning.

"Watch your Great Lakes." he said. "Don't think for a minute that there are other parts of the country that will someday need that resource. It's my advice to you to start to plan for that fact now."

I looked at the guy sitting next to me with some surprise showing on my face. He had the same expression.


"Sounds like scare talk to me." he said.

I wonder what he thinks today.

Expansive development in parts of the country have put a strain on water resources. The 1,200-year drought in the west has the Colorado River turning into a trickle of its former self.

I and my friends took a trip back in the 1970s and drove across Hoover Dam. Water was lapping at the top of the dam.

Today we see Lake Mead retreating hundreds of yards from its former self. Water rationing has been instituted along the river's route. Fights are springing up as to who has first dibs on water.

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I've heard that some are discussing how to transfer water from the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and the Great Lakes to other states. If oil can be pumped through a pipeline, so can water. That long ago speaker's message was prophetic.

Heading home from that hot hay field back in the day I didn't have a worry about turning on that water hydrant and getting my fill of that clear, cool water.

Clean, drinkable water can be more precious than gold or oil. Some folks are finding that out today.


Do I sound a bit selfish expressing this water concern. Guilty as charged. I've been thinking about water.

See you next time. Okay?

Opinion by John Wetrosky
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