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Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

Water supply
not to be taken for granted


by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Today we think nothing of turning on a faucet to get water. Daily, millions of gallons of water are used, saved, wasted, discussed, bought and sold without raising an eyebrow.

Well, folks, it hasn't always been that way.

Excerpts from "The Early History of Ochiltree County" tell about the many problems suffered by the earliest pioneers there and recall the problem of finding water on the High Plains. The first hand-dug water well in Ochiltree County was dug in 1887 by R.S. Cutter who "witched and found" a likely place on which he dug to a depth of 97 feet before finding water. The well was weak in production and finally abandoned.

The second hand-dug well was named "The Brillhart" located on Section 1010, going 240 feet deep, dug by Sam Brillhart and John May with Bob Garrett lifting the dirt to the top by windlass.

Another well, thought to be the third hand-dug well, went to a depth of 252 feet and was dug by D.L. Whippo, who encountered a streak of hard rock 103 feet thick. He did not give up and finally broke through to find "sweet water" that fed settlers, travelers and livestock for more than 75 years. Imagine digging for months at the bottom of a vertical tunnel nearly as deep as a football field is long.

There were many hand-dug water wells dug in the late 1890s before the cable-rigged "spudders" were invented. It was estimated for every good well found, at least two others were dry or weak producers.

James Lile dug a water well in the Oklahoma Strip near Gray, Okla., using wind power furnished by a new-fangled Eclipse Wind Mill. The men "dug when the wind blew and rested when the wind was calm."

Our ranch in New Mexico sported a 6-foot Aermoter windmill, sitting astraddle a hand-dug, rock-lined, water well located on the Rana Creek bank. It was about 24 feet deep.

The remnants of a one-room rock house stood only a few feet away. Someone had torn the walls down to a 2-foot height, rocked in the doorways and hauled blue clay from a nearby hill to make a tank bottom. With only one 20-foot joint of pipe and sucker rod, the mill turned on a slight breeze, always keeping the rock tank full. No one remembers who dug the well. It had just always been there.

Perhaps if each of us had to spend months of hard work digging for water we would be more careful in our water use. Maybe some would not be so quick to sell or ship our Panhandle water elsewhere. If we had to haul our domestic water in wooden barrels on sled or wagon, filling and emptying with a bucket, our water bills would be much less.

At my age, I'm not worried about running out of water before I die. However, I predict that there may be a lot of people living today who will suffer water shortage or will pay fantastic water bills at some time in the future due to a dwindling supply of water.


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
August 1, 2007 Column




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