WATER WISE WAYS – Byron Chitwood


We are currently out of the woods on water supply and soil moisture compared to what we have been through in the past.  However, knowing Texas and the hot summers, there is no time to conserve like the present.  We might need to do that in the present.


First of all some facts are that agriculture and water management are a global issue.  The population is increasing while the supply of water worldwide remains about stable.  Less than 3% of the world’s water is considered fresh which includes all water with less than 500 ppm so dissolved salts.  97% of the world’s water is ocean.  The world’s fresh water as a percentage of total water is: glaciers, ice caps and snow account for about 2%; ground water and soil moisture is about 1%; swamps and rivers are about 0.01 percent and the atmosphere is about 0.04%


Human needs range from about 11 to 53 gallons per day per person while farm animal require from 2 to 15 gallons per day per animal.  Minimum crop needs in our area require a minimum of 25 inches of rain per crop year.  May was an exceptional good month for rain in our area.  After the soil became saturated, the rest ran off and filled the lakes.  I remember when I was a kid, the Guthrie city lake went dry and the only water we had for all needs was well or cistern water, neither of which was plentiful enough for all our needs or wants.  A pipe line was laid from the Cottonwood Creek and the water sure didn’t taste good but it was wet. 


I mentioned cistern water in the previous paragraph.  Nothing is new about that.  The first source of water for the early settlers was creeks or springs until they were able to hand dig a well.  The well water wasn’t always good.  My granddad’s first farm had a hand dug well and the water was “gypy” and not good for human consumption.  I suspect the water was slightly salty since the farm was less than a mile away from the Cimarron River which was highly salty. The cows, horses, hogs and chickens didn’t seem to mind it but they didn’t have much of a choice.  After farm homes and barns were built, the farmers constructed cisterns most of which were concrete lined and underground.  The pumps were hand cranked and had a multitude of small buckets attached to a chain and emptied into a catch device that delivered the water to an outlet.  To be on the safe side, cistern water needed to be boiled since the cisterns were not mosquito or critter proof.


If you are interested in constructing a cistern or “rain water harvesting system” you can obtain plans at the Hunt County AgriLife Extension office or on the internet at AgriLifebookstore.org.  All your houseplants, garden crops just love rainwater and you will do your share in helping conserve one of our precious natural resources.