did people do for water before windmills?
This question is significant and brings to mind other questions of
like nature. Beware, as the following theories are strictly "Trew."
We know beyond doubt there were millions of buffalo, deer, antelope,
coyotes, mountain lions, wild turkeys, plus a long list of lesser
creatures living on the Great Plains before the white man came. Each
had to have water daily to survive. Add the Indians, their horses
and livestock water requirements to this and it adds up to a lot of
water needed each and every day. --- How many gallons? A mature buffalo
weighing 900 to 1,000 pounds will drink about eight to 10 gallons
of water per day. Calculate a like amount, relative to live weight
of all the other prairie creatures and dwellers, and the amount of
daily water required becomes astronomical.
Remember now, this was before windmills, earthen dams and lakes, pipelines
and electrical-powered water systems. Where did all the water come
from and where was it located?
The only logical answer is, every creek, draw or arroyo, buffalo wallow
and playa lake contained water either from rain, live springs or seeps.
Where did this water come from? It is not present today. What happened
to make it disappear? We know the average rainfall varies from year
to year, but over a long period of time still remains "average." This
hasn't changed all that much.
The reason for the plentiful water at that time was the lush, heavy
grass cover on the land. Remember the Conquistadores who wrote, "The
grass waved in the wind like waves on the sea."
This heavy cover held the rains until they soaked into the upper aquifer,
preventing it from running off down the creeks. The life-giving moisture
leaked out slowly into the low places as seeps and live springs. The
Plains were fed continuously
from border to border by this vast reservoir.
Sadly, as the ranchers and settlers arrived, this cover was grazed
off, burned by prairie fire, or plowed under to plant crops. The average
rainfall came but ran off into the gullies and was prevented from
soaking into the aquifer. As this underground storage reservoir dried
up, wells had to be dug to supply the water needs of the populace
and its creatures.
The railroads and
progressive landowners were the first to drill wells and install windmills.
As the upper aquifer continued to dry up, and the windmills pumped
from the lower aquifer, the water table continued to fall. It was
quite a change from the time before the white man arrived.
Old-timers living in the vicinity of Running Water Draw on the South
Plains recall having to swim their horses across the famous stream.
Today, they say the draw is dry except immediately after rains, and
the nearby landowners have to drill 100 feet deep to find water for
Sorry for this sad tale, whether "true" or "Trew." Though I probably
won't still be around, this makes me wonder exactly where our water
woes will end up someday.
"It's All Trew" August
1, 2006 Column