Time for concern about water now

Milford’s water commission continues to look for a place to dig a new municipal well, but, "It’s not too promising," com­mission Chairman Robert Courage said.

This is a legacy of the "good" old days when towns and businesses paid no at­tention to the possibility of contaminat­ing water supplies, partly because of ignorance, partly because of the Ameri­can economic concept of "let our great-grandchildren worry about it."

Now, though, Milford – and many other communities in the region and the nation – face the issue of water shortages caused by drought (not to be blamed upon cli­mate change, which, as we all know, is a Chinese hoax) and with few alternatives.

The large aquifers that run along the Souhegan River east from the Wilton line to the Milford Oval area are contaminated and the town’s two Superfund sites – Sav­age Well, west of the old police station, and Fletcher Paint, near Keyes Memorial Park – are in the midst of cleanup opera­tions that will take decades to clean, at best.

Of course, Milford does have the fall­back of using water from Pennichuck Wa­ter Works, but taxpayers have to pay for that.

So, naturally, the search for a new, local source of drinking water continues, as it must, but there doesn’t seem to be much hope of finding one.

For most of the history of this nation, we have treated water as an infinite re­source. Turn on the tap, you get water. Why worry? We douse our lawns, we fill our pools as if water will be with us al­ways. Maybe it will be. Maybe the rains will come as they did for Noah, although that might be a bit much, or as they some­times do in places like California, which, when it isn’t suffering a drought, seems to be drowning in water that causes mud slides.

But if the rains don’t come to New Eng­land, well, there’s always the Suriname solution.

Here is a headline from Bloomberg News:

"Suriname will tow a giant bag of water to fight the Caribbean’s drought."

That’s right: a giant bag of water, filled in the tropical rainforests of Suriname, to the drought-stricken islands of Barbados and Curacao. Now this is only a test, so the "giant" bag contains only enough wa­ter to fill an Olympic size swimming pool, but if it works, then even larger bags can be filled and towed behind boats to re­lieve the droughts.

It sounds a bit far-fetched and a heck of a lot of work, but a Dutch engineer be­lieves in it so much that he has started a company and spent $2 million developing it, and he plans to raise $60 million next year, when it "wants to start making regu­lar deliveries." Wow.

OK, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to tow giant bags of water up the Souhe­gan or Merrimack rivers to relieve our drought, but think of the situation in which the world must find itself when people are willing to invest millions on such a project. They’re betting on long-term drought, not something that’s going away next week or next year.

What does that tell us about our own water future? It tells us, if nothing else, that we have to be cognizant, we have to be caring, we have to stop, for instance, covering our world with impermiable surfaces such as parking lots that keep rain water, when we get it, from reaching aquifers.

It tells us that we have to think and plan and look to the future and not always set­tle for the instant gratification of a green lawn.

This is serious. It’s been predicted that our drought will last until at least Feb­ruary, and that’s based upon current cli­mate models for our rainfall and snow melt. What if those models are wrong? What if we go into next summer with an even greater drought?

What’s the New England equivalent of Suriname? Because one day, if we don’t take water more seriously than we do now, that might be our only hope.