When the rain comes...

It is raining. I can almost hear the earth sighing with relief. Or perhaps it’s just me.

Droplets are coursing down the windowpanes, reminding me of AA Milne’s children’s book “Now We Are Six.” In it there’s a delightful poem about how much fun it is to while away a rainy day by having “raindrop races” on a windowpane.

Whether you’re a child or an adult, as Canadians we are water-rich. Although some local communities like Quyon and Fort Coulonge don’t have good drinking water, here in the Pontiac it is relatively easy to obtain.

There’s Pontiac Springs, for instance, where delicious spring-fed water gushes out of the earth near Charteris. In Quyon there is also a wonderful spring. It was well used during the 1998 ice storm, when some locals depended upon it for their supply of potable water. Not incidentally, it was a good spot to gather and exchange news, too, during that power outage.

But it is far too easy, if you have water, to take it completely for granted. And it is not simply a freak of nature like an ice storm that makes obtaining potable water for cattle or human beings difficult.

Drought also puts water resources at risk.

And water purity has become a serious issue that is affecting farmers. (See my March 8 article on the Beef Environment Day).

In that article, I described how local beef producers are having to conform to a new program called “Cattle Manure Management Practices.” During the day-long session put on by Shawville’s MAPAQ office, we visited two Pontiac area farms. The emphasis of this program is upon protecting natural watercourses from fecal contamination.

And although the thirty-or so farmers who attended the session were generally positive about the program, as an observer I couldn’t help but note that the changes are far-reaching... and expensive.

So is digging a well. But “expensive” or not, ensuring that water is potable and reliably available is a good investment for all of us to make.

From my various travels, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to get drinking water. In the early 1980s, Eric and I visited many Asian countries where clean drinking water was simply unavailable. How did we manage? We took the advice of a doctor we met in China, who purified his own drinking water by adding two drops of iodine in his litre bottle of water. He added to the water’s nutritional content by squeezing a fresh lime or lemon into the bottle, thus adding vitamin C and killing the taste of the iodine.

That trip taught us to treasure clean water.

And, once we returned to Canada and our then-home in Ottawa, it seemed incredibly luxurious to be able to turn on the kitchen tap and drink a glass of water.

So it was with considerable alarm, during the summer of ’98, when we hosted a family reunion of Eric’s siblings here, that we realized that among the Fletcher family, we had the only household (at that time) where one could drink the water from the taps.

Just imagine that.

His parents used to live on a hobby farm in Kinburn, and had well-water that reeked of sulphur. It was impossible to drink straight from the tap and, when they put their home up for sale, they were horrified to learn that the bacterial count in their well had to be remedied before the buyers would purchase the farm. The solution? Pour bleach down the drains to kill the algae bloom in the pipes.

During the family reunion, a nephew precipitated a discussion about water when he asked, “Is it okay to drink the water from your tap?”

Personally, I thought he was joking. But no... where he lives in Summerland, B.C., the water has been contaminated by “Beaver Fever.” I think it was in 1996 or so that many townspeople -- including the schoolchildren -- fell ill to this unpleasant sickness which causes bellyaches and diarrhea.

So he asked about what came out of our Steele Line taps for good reason.

The point to all of this is that it is all too easy to take water for granted as an easily-obtainable commodity.

In fact, it’s the most priceless resource on earth. Quite simply, our lives depend upon it.



Laura Prior called last week to say the bluebirds have returned to Memory Lane Farm on the Steele Line. On Friday March 24 I spotted a male on the Wilson Road. As well, the turkey vultures are back, as are the killdeer. When Eric and I were in Louisiana two weeks ago, we saw flocks of wood ducks, reminding us that these birds will soon return to us, too.

Call me with your bird reports: 458-2090.


Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer based near Quyon, Québec.