Urban Garden Denver Blog

Water Matters … Everywhere

At the risk of turning this garden blog into a travel blog, I am offering reflections on water issues in two more areas that I had the opportunity to visit this fall – India and the United Arab Emirates. Then I’ll get back to more familiar topics, like the pansies and bulbs that I am planting this week.

On my first day in India, I was planning on visiting the botanic gardens in Bangalore before I started my work teaching a magazine editing course. However, there was a general strike that day over water policy, so we stayed in rather than venturing out, on the advice of our group organizers. The particular water issue is that the Supreme Court had ordered the region around Bangalore to release water to a neighboring state, and the locals were  opposed to this transfer of water. Ironically, I was unable to visit the botanic gardens, because of a dispute over water policy.

Water matters, all over the world. Whether it is access to clean water, irrigation for agriculture, or water for industrial uses, we cannot function without adequate water supplies, and they are at risk all over the globe. After this inauspicious beginning, I had an amazing time in India and was able to learn and observe a few small parts of a complex and layered culture.

Then I traveled to the UAE, where Dubai is a booming global city on the edge of historically bedouin desert areas. There I stayed with friends in their home adjacent to a historic oasis. Throughout the centuries, any source of water in the desert became a gathering place. Seeing the oasis also made me understand the biblical texts about spiritual refreshment being compared to water in the desert – a context best understood in dry conditions. This particular oasis where I was staying was surrounded by date palms, yielding their sticky harvest. However, as development has increased in the area, the water table has dropped and the springs of the oasis are no longer sufficient. In order to keep the date palms going, the government now pipes in water from desalination projects on the coast. My friends have a few trees in the small courtyard around their home, water from their laundry is recycled into the garden (gray water in technical terms). This is not allowed in some parts of the US, but is an efficient way of maximizing the value of water in a desert. Water matters, all around the world.

Date Palm Oasis, a shady spot for a walk

As I raked leaves in my dry garden back in Denver, I was reminded that the need for water is pivotal in so many regions of the world. We can take it for granted, with our organized system of reservoirs, filtration plants and water pipes throughout the city, but water matters and without it our lifestyle and opportunities would be significantly different. It’s something we take for granted until it isn’t there anymore.

Irrigation system in oasis

I know my flower garden and trees are a luxury, and I hope that I am a good steward of the water and other resources that I have access to … because it matters in a local and a global sense.

Dates ready for harvest

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