Losing Water

Vermont is in a significant drought. According to our Agency of Natural Resources website, 73% of the state is affected, with the north central area (where I am) in a “severe” drought.

That’s all well and good; the story here is that our well went dry last week.

Let me phrase that better, because our well has gone dry often. In recent years, around August as we watched our pond diminish, we’d experience an empty tap about an hour after starting to water our gardens. Easy enough to fix: we just turn off the hoses.  The water came back in force within 10 – 20 minutes.

This summer, though, I noticed it took nearly an hour before it came back. Then, last month, we noticed it wasn’t coming back until morning.  But come back it did. We had some interrupted laundries. We stopped watering our gardens. I realized it hadn’t rained since July.

Then, last Thursday morning, it didn’t come back. We were completely without water.

I’ve never been completely without water. Even in Kazakhstan, considered a desert, we always had water. We couldn’t drink it without running it through our distiller, but we had water. Hot water too.

Mind you, I know there is a world-wide water crisis. I’m one of those people who turns off the shower while I suds up the shampoo, even though our water just cycles back into the ground water, eventually. Still, I was not in any way prepared for this.

How to deal with a water crisis.

So, supposed you turned on your faucet and nothing came out. What would you do? First?

The first thing I did was try to find out how widespread it was. I posted a query on our local internet bulletin board, Front Porch Forum. I thought I’d start a discussion on who else is out of water, how are we coping, when’s it coming back. You know, a conversation.

Instead I got a dozen or more emails directly offering laundry facilities, showers, and outdoor water spigots so we could fill up. Vermonters are great; neighbors are great. People are great.

Many sent suggestions of public showers, though with Covid, they weren’t sure they were still open. I learned a town to the north of us has been without water for the last month. The whole town! At least our town wasn’t dry; just my well (and a few other wells, it would turn out).

The second thing I did was write the former owners of our house to learn about our well.  Granted, I should have known this before even moving in; I probably did. But who keeps that kind of information in their head? Obviously not I. (Nor Woody).

So, I gave Ralph a quick email.  Within an hour I’d learned that we have an eight foot “dug” well (to distinguish our well from a “drilled” well, which would go much deeper).  No wonder the well was dry.  The spring that fed it was dry.

Our area normally gets about nine inches in July and again in August. We hadn’t gotten any rain here since July 27 when we got a half inch.

The folks who were emailing me with offers of help had drilled wells or were on town water.  Who ever thinks about these things? Someone who has no water, that’s who.

The third thing I did was to call my plumber to see what he might do. What he could do was give us  names of people who actually work on wells.  Plumbers do not. I learn something new every day.

I called. Full up. No way can they even come over to give us a (free) estimate until around Thanksgiving. They are simply too busy.  And, if it is a drilled well we need, their very friendly receptionist was able to tell me it’ll run us between $9,000 and $16,000.

Ouch! 

In the meantime, we needed water to drink. We needed to wash dishes, cook, do laundry (not so much), and stay clean.

We’ve figured it out. But you know what I missed the most in all this? Take a guess. What would you miss the most, do you think?

It’s not showering whenever I want — I haven’t really done that since Peace Corps anyway. We have two homes to visit offering us shower privileges.

It’s not laundry. Again, two homes.

It’s not filling up the multiple water jugs. And there are many:  one 6-gallon one, two 4-gallon ones, and three 1-gallon ones. There we have four sources. We use all four. Can’t have our  neighbors doing dry too. (Our neighbors have drilled wells; smart folks that they are).

What I’ve come to miss most is washing my hands. I want warm water and suds; I want to sing Happy Birthday or whatever new song I’ve landed on so I will scrub them the recommended 20 seconds. There’s Covid out there, and washing hands is high up there in the “things to do to keep Covid at bay” category.

We brought in the hand sanitizer spritz bottle from Woody’s truck and it is rooted on the corner of the kitchen counter so we always know right where it is.

And I’ve grown to hate it.

The smell of it. The feel of it. The fact of it. The need of it. I want to rub my hands together under warm soapy bubbles.  We were guests last night at a friends’ home and that’s the first thing I did when I arrived. I washed my hands.  It was heavenly.  No, I did not do a rendition of “Out, damn spot.”

And tonight as I type this up, I can hear the rain falling. Tomorrow’s forecast is 100% rain, all day. The first we’ve had in over nine weeks.

 

How about you? What’s been keeping you busy these days? 

21 Responses

  1. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Sorry to hear about your water woes. I grew up in the country, and had a shallow well (albeit, not as shallow as yours). We had to ration, particularly in the summer, and yes, took “navy showers,” turning the water off while sudsing up. Now, I live in a city in a desert and, while I enjoy the hot showers, I bemoan having to pay to water my lawn and put treated water on my garden. ‘Here’s to just the right amount of rain for you and your neighbors.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Tim. Thanks for starting us off — an advantage of living two time zones to the west. Yours is the second time I’ve heard the term “navy showers.” Had hoped it had something to do with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (hmm; bad joke?) Anyway, I grew up in the city and then the burbs where we paid for our water, but there is always was. We really like having well water — it’s free and it tastes better than any I’ve ever had before. I cart it out to Ohio with me when I visit (back in the good old days, pre-Covid). It’s also nice to know that running low is a fixture of having a well. How much we take for granted. Merci beau coup.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

  2. Merril D Smith
    | Reply

    So sorry, Janet. I hope you get plenty of rain, enough to end a drought (and snow later, if that helps). Eight feet does sound rather shallow for a well.
    Merril D Smith recently posted…Harvest MoonMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Woody and I were just saying how we wish we had some kind of gauge to measure how well our well is doing. Alas. But I’m running the dishwasher tonight! And tomorrow I’ll do a load of laundry. It’s such fun to plan these things, eager anticipation and all that. The upside of having a dry well. And, just an FYI, the shallowness seems to not be the issue as much as the strength of the stream that it taps. It could be five feet, it could be fifteen feet. Who knew. I’m learning much.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

  3. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I hope the rainbow after your rain will result in plenty of H20 to end the drought and restore the rhythms in your household. I love warm-water-on-my-hands and would dearly miss it.

    Like you, I am alert to ways to conserve water; e.g., it’s not always necessary to flush the toilet every time. When I clean, dirty water is dumped on the lawn or flower beds, not down the drain. Waste not, want not, has been drilled into me.
    Marian Beaman recently posted…I Didn’t See that Coming: My 2020 ScheduleMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      The rhythms of my household — how I love that. That was one of the challenges at first; no tap water made me stop and think about the HOW for the first time. And each time, whether showers or laundry or dishes, we’d have to think about the how — which house, shall I call first, let’s share that extra dessert, did I pack my towel? I do like my habits, my rhythms. Thanks for that, Marian.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

  4. Arlene Smith
    | Reply

    I didn’t know about a drought in that area. I am glad that rain is falling on you now, as it is here. (Ottawa) On occasion we’ve had to go without water at our cottage due to pump issues. On those days I miss a plain old glass of fresh cold well water out of the tap. Water from other sources always tastes . . . stale.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh the taste of that fresh spring water, indeed. That stuff they sell in the single use plastic is just so …. stale. We are spoiled, Arlene. And I love that we are. Thanks for weighing in from up north. (love those canals that wander through your capital).
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

  5. Clive Pilcher
    | Reply

    Not a problem I’ve ever suffered, I’m thankful to say! I hope those rains came and gave you a plentiful supply of water.
    Clive Pilcher recently posted…Tuesday Tunes 28: The Sixties – Part 1My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, Clive. They have and they did. All it well. And I’ve learned much.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

  6. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    Having the well run dry was always a worry growing up on the farm. It came close a few times but we were careful, shared bath water etc. In the city we take running water for granted. Here in Spain water levels can get very low as well. I hope the rain will fill up the well once more and you can wash your hands again. Funny what you miss. xo
    Darlene Foster recently posted…Spain Chronicles, Part 1My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Isn’t it! I’d have never guessed that’s what I’d miss. And now I thoroughly enjoy each moment. What is that about losing something in order to fully appreciate it? Glad you stopped by, Darlene.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

  7. Terri Lyon
    | Reply

    It is hard to imagine. I’m so sorry that you are experiencing this, Janet. And thanks for reminding the rest of use the blessing we might take for granted.
    Terri Lyon recently posted…How To Get Out the Vote: It’s Not Just CanvassingMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Isn’t that the best lesson, Teri? Thanks for adding your voice. I’m always glad to hear it.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

  8. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    So sorry to hear about your drought, Janet. Water is such a basic need that I’ll admit I take for granted. I remember when you visited how you wanted to do the dishes so you could soak your hands in warm, sudsy water. Sometimes the simple pleasures end up being the best. May the rains come to fill your well with clean, fresh water.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh that’s right, Kathy. What a good memory to recall. I’m so glad we figured out how to have visits. May we do that again, once visits return as something to do.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

  9. Pamela
    | Reply

    Not fun! We lived for ten years in a NE home in which we lived on/with well water. I loved it, but it must have been drilled deep (the previous owner had been a contractor and built it up from a small ranch and really really took care of this property). What I didn’t like was if we lost power, then the well pump didn’t work and we didn’t have water. Wanted to buy a generator then, but cost would be about $10,000 so never did that. If weather was really bad (it’s NE – always bad weather) we’d fill the bath tubs with water to be able to flush toilets, etc. MA is having a drought now also, severe in some places, bad to severe in others. Designated days for watering plants outside. We all celebrated the rain storm we got yesterday, no nowhere near enough to make a different. Good luck to you. I agree, just “washing” hands with sanitizer feels uncomfortable.
    Pamela recently posted…Heart BeatsMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Pam. We put in a generator almost the first year we were here, hearing scary stories from our neighbor. But in the 13 years since, I don’t think we’ve been without power for more than two days.

      Interesting bathtub story. We keep one of those 6 gallon water jugs (available at your favorite hardware store) filled in the basement so we can flush our toilets. What we didn’t realize is that it’s too heavy for us to lift any more! Fortunately, we had two very strong young men living with us during this period, so we relied on them to bring it upstairs and to pour it into smaller (2 gallon) jugs we could manage, and to take it the neighbors to refill.

      It’s raining again today and I had one of those long hot soaks this morning, so life is returning to normal. Glad you stopped by with your story.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

  10. Janet Morrison
    | Reply

    I was relieved to get to the end of your post and find out that it was raining. I wish we could send you some from NC. It’s been a very wet summer. I hope you and Woody will get by without drilling a well. When our last well went dry around 20 years ago, we were given a choice. We could pay by the foot or we could pay $x for guaranteed water no matter the depth they had to drill. Since the well that had just gone dry was 112 feet deep, we felt safe to contract by the foot. Turned out to be the wrong answer. As the hours of drilling turned into days of drilling through something like 150 feet of solid granite, at a depth of 320 feet they finally hit water. $$$$$$. The joys of country living! We’re also on a septic tank, which means when our electricity goes off due to lightning or an ice storm, we’re not only without running water; we also can’t flush. Being able to flush is right up there with being able to wash one’s hands with soap and water!
    Janet Morrison recently posted…#OnThisDay: Missed Opportunity on August 24My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ouch. Don’t you hate choices like that? They expect you to predict the future. We’ve chosen to forgo the new well for now. We’ll add a storage tank in the basement that we can refill if needed. Fill it up in the spring when water is more than plentiful. Our biggest challenge was getting hot water. We couldn’t; that’s what we bummed off our friends (and some became friends through this). Some of our neighbors have wells 300 and more feet deep. We’re really not wanting to go there. Fingers crossed. (and it’s raining again today. Yay!!) Thanks for swinging by, Janet. Hope your rainy season brings you lots of beauty down there.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Losing WaterMy Profile

      • Janet Morrison
        | Reply

        Thank you, Janet. Great to hear you got more rain! I hope that keeps up to replenish your well.

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