Whither, Snowy Peak?

100_0282Today the Portland Water bureau announced that it would henceforth be “blending” groundwater from its emergency wells with our customarily pristine Bull Run water from Mt. Hood, to assure that we “don’t run out” as the quite visibly bone-dry mountain awaits the fall and winter rainy seasons. Like most mountains, Mt Hood has lost massive amounts of its historic glaciers in recent years, which could always be counted on to provide melting water sufficient to augment ordinary summer snow melt, keeping fresh, life-giving water flowing downhill to Little Beirut.

The wells were drilled in the Columbia floodplain in the 80′s, when unchecked logging and attendant erosion in the watershed had rendered Bull Run too turbid to draw all the way down, but they were soon discovered to be contaminated with industrial solvents, and several of them had to be abandoned, their use confined to the gravest emergencies.  Thankfully, logging in the watershed has since been strictly curtailed, greatly increasing the clarity and potability of Bull Run, but those skanky wells are now routinely tapped anyway, because our iconic snow-capped peak, well, isn’t snow-capped any more for a couple of months each year, and can no longer provide the city with its famously pure water without augmentation.

Out with the mud, in with the benzene, it seems.  Thank goodness they’re diluting it.  All of my life, I’ve treasured the glimpses I’ve had of Mt. Hood; so improbably white and yet so close even in summer heat waves, but the last eight years that I’ve been able to see it from my window each day have been a sobering blow, revealing an alien and almost lunar-looking gray peak each fall that stands in stark contrast to my childhood memories.  As the glaciers retreat, what, exactly, are we supposed to drink?100_0282


  1. Ask Heru. He lives in Florida, I understand, so he’ll be up to his keister in water bye-and-bye. Of course, it’ll be salt water, but what the hey…..

  2. Jim Montague says:

    Ummm, salt water mixed with residue from gas stations, chemical plants, cemeteries, asbestos roofing, and abandoned cars. I feel sorry for anyone who has property at sea level, Of course, global warming is arguably a few years in the future and there is this solution in the meantime:http://www.aquasciences.com/technology.html
    But honestly, could anyone really charge people for water? As we go forward into the future, shouldn’t we really have the conversation that ALL water should be free and readily accessible to everyone? I own a couple of high producing springs, but I would never consider my ownership sacrosanct over the public good.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Given the dwindling Sierra snowpack, I think that some of California’s industrial agriculture will have to change a bit, and growing rice and cotton in Arizona will be out, too. The situation we have now, where urban users pay several factors more than farmers for water, is bound to change.

  3. retzilian says:

    Cattle raising uses (wastes) more water than any other “crop.”

    Maybe we’ll be forced into a sort of semi-vegetarianism. Water will continue to be a problem. Luckily, I live on a great big fresh water pond about 45 miles wide and we actually have so much rain and fresh water, it’s really cheap and plentiful. One of the few benefits of living in northern Ohio, I guess.

    Plus, September.

    Off Topic, but did anyone watch last night’s Law & Order? I rarely watch the show, but I sat in last night for the thinly veiled John Yoo episode. It was a nice fantasy while it lasted.

  4. retzilian says:

    You should catch it on the rerun if you can.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Well, I’ll have to wait for it to turn up online, as I have never had a television. You’ve gotten me thinking more and more about meat production; factory farms and feedlots, “Fast Food Nation,” (I didn’t eat a hamburger for years afterward…), and such. I remember driving from LA to Phoenix and smelling a terrible smell for miles, then finally driving through a feedlot that lay on both sides of the road; cattle as far as the eye could see. My eyes burned and stomach turned at the stench.
      It was a far cry from my dad’s ranch in Burns back in the 70′s… and quite scary.
      After a brief stint in LA in 1992, I read a whole lot about western water development and its costs, and I know a lot of my knowledge is probably becoming dated. I plan to study this more, and possibly write about it.