Watching the clouds drift away

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By Special to The Sun


Perched here on the hill, our view of the horizon extends from Lebanon skies in the southwest over to Springfield’s weather in the northwest, and looking over Texas, to Mackville and Willisburg direction.  

Since early June, when the rain stopped, we’ve watched the clouds boil up, tease us with promising heat lightning, rumble and rattle around then fade away, or dump a rain shower just out of reach.
The creek has dried to a mud flat.
Summer has been marked by watching the neighbor’s corn fields shrivel from green to brown; here on a grass farm, the cows have been happy with Johnson grass, but their water has come from Willisburg Lake, along with a hefty bill.
Every day in a drought brings home to farmers, more than anyone else, how critical water is to  daily life.  
The right amount in the right place at the right time means a good year or red ink on the balance sheet.  
Yet we take water for granted, turning on the faucets, letting the shower run, flushing the toilets.
Americans use, on average, 350 gallons of water daily, mostly in bathroom use.  Toilets use nearly 25 percent of the indoor water flow.  
An older toilet, pre 1992, easily uses over 3,000 gallons a year.
As the drought has spread, attention to the scarcity of fresh water and the need to change practices in this country, which uses more resources per person than any other place in the world, has   increased focus on toilets.  
Toto, a Japanese company, has been re-engineering toilets for watersaving features, including a one-gallon flush gravity toilet, projected to come to market this fall.
Australia, the driest continent in the world, has introduced a dual-flush toilet, with two buttons, one for liquid flushes and one for solids.  
These toilets have been mandated in Australia and New Zealand since 1992.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has just increased funding to $370 million for innovation to improve water, sanitation and hygiene resources, including a toilet that will operate without running water, electricity, or a septic system, discharge no pollutants and cost no more than five U.S. cents per day to operate.  
Another area of water loss that is surfacing among city managers and environmentalists is the aging infrastructure that carries water to our buildings.  
The United States, in a New York Times article, is estimated to lose about one in six gallons of clean, treated water every day due to leaky pipes.  
Plumbing systems in many cities predate the Civil War, with some towns still using pipes made of wood.  
Infrastructure that has served 200 years or more is beginning to fail, and the cost of replacement will have to be passed on to the consumer.  
But clean water is an important investment in public health and will have to be given priority.
So we continue to watch the clouds float by and monitor the radar maps, looking for rain to keep our grass growing for the animals, put enough moisture in the ground to sprout the three acres of turnips and rapeseed for winter pasture, and build up ground moisture for next year’s spring hay.