Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Water We Eat

One of the things that traveling does is give one a broader perspective on the world than is available from staying in one place.  My recent trip to Kings Canyon National Park was no exception.  One insight I had on this particular trip was about water, where it comes from and where it ultimately goes.
We spent most of a week camping right next to Kings River which drains all the water that collects in Kings Canyon. The river at this time of the year, October, does not carry much water since it hasn't rained all summer and the melt-water from glaciers higher up in the Sierras is minimal. 

Still, he water of the river is cold and clear even late in Summer when temperatures during the day still rise into the nineties.
And as is usual for me when staying in a place for a while, I become curious about it, specifically about the Kings River.  Where does it go?  I don't remember where I got the answer, but the answer is, into a reservoir downstream in the foot-hills of the Sierra from which the water goes to the city of Fresno and to the surrounding farmland for irrigation. And so, the water of the river next to which we camped never reaches the ocean. And even before the reservoir was built and before the land in the valley was farmed, the river seldom reached the ocean. Most year it drained into the shallow Tulare Lake which most years had no outlet. Only in unusually wet years did the water of the lake overflow into the San Joaquin River which flows into San Francisco Bay.
But now, the Kings River irrigates farm land and the water that first fell as snow in the Sierra Nevada range ends up in almonds, peaches, plums, oranges and other produce, much of which is trucked out of the state via interstate highways and gets consumed far from its origins by people who have no clue that the water in the peach that they are eating may have also cooled my body on a hot day in October.

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