Ranger Kathryn's Arches

May 8, 2016

Water = Life

Filed under: wilderness life — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:33 am
Tags: , , ,



Shallow potholes may be the only water source for backpackers — until they dry up

When I say “desert,” you may picture an arid inhospitable place with fewer than 10 inches of rain annually. That describes much of southern Utah, and shapes our daily life in ways small and large.

Water conservation measures here are pretty serious business. By the time it arrives in 6000-gallon trucks from Moab, 130 miles away, the cost is about $1200 per truckload, or 20 cents per gallon. A 30,000-gallon underground tank stores it safely while we plan how to use each valuable cupful. Every apartment is metered carefully to detect leaks, and we know where the shut-off valve is.

We let our clothes get good and dirty before laundering them. Embrace a little body odor. Shampoo hair once a week. Collect and use rainwater because it’s free, albeit rare. Don’t flush unless you must. Never wash a vehicle. When you turn on the shower for your ultra-short and infrequent ‘navy shower,’ put a bucket under the faucet to collect the not-yet-hot water, which you then use for another purpose. Dishwashing/rinsing becomes an art, equivalent to a Prius owner striving to hyper-mile. Use your soapy dishwashing water (or shower water) to flush the toilet.

If a storm knocks out our electrical system, there’s the pioneer route for back-up: a hand pump. The hand pump is also the place where all staff would meet in an emergency. Don’t miss the symbolism; in the desert, water IS life.

This is different from my Minnesota life where water is plentiful in those 10,000 lakes. How about where you live? What conservation measures do you practice?


Every time I turn on my faucet, I give thanks for this driver


  1. Quite a contrast with MN! We should all be more water conservation conscious!

    Comment by Ann Rabie — May 8, 2016 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Kathryn,

    This evening, I stumbled across your blog, and I must say, it is really great, and I love tine insight and perspective! Soon, Next month I will be moving across the country from DC to Yosemite to become the Fire Inspector there… my second NPS Job, but my first permanent NPS Position. My last one was a Term Job years ago at Chattahoochee River Natl Rec Area in Atlanta. Anyway, Again, I really like the perspective, and if you don’t mind I would like to use your idea for my own, and create my own blog once I get to Yosemite. thanks again for putting this info out there. As a new ranger, I find the information fascinating and valuable, as well as entertaining!


    Comment by Blake Scott — May 8, 2016 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

    • Congratulations on your permanent job, Blake! The adventure begins! By all means start your own blog. It’s remarkably easy with WordPress and you’ll have plenty to write about at YOSE. I’d love to subscribe to yours once it’s up and running, so contact me again. Enjoy this new chapter in your life!

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — May 8, 2016 @ 9:45 pm | Reply

  3. Very thought-provoking. We live about a mile from Lake Superior and have ample high-quality water. One thing we do, though, is never water our lawn. Some people do not realize brown grass is dormant, not dead. Also, we do not fertilize or use weed killer. These substances can be washed into the lake. When washing produce during the gardening season, I recycle the water into watering my small flower beds or house plants. These measures are more for cutting down on the water bill and helping protect the water source than availability.

    Comment by Chris Youngman — May 9, 2016 @ 4:16 am | Reply

    • No matter the reason, conserving water is admirable. Thank you for sharing the produce-washing tip! It’s quite remarkable how many re-uses one can get out of tap water, with a little resourcefulness. One year when our water tank leaked empty in the desert, we re-used what little we had as many times as was prudent — even the water in which we had boiled pasta.

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — May 9, 2016 @ 12:13 pm | Reply

  4. Kathryn, I enjoy reading your blogs very much. I was in Canyonlands last month to do a bit of research on Upheaval Dome’s shatter cones. Thought you might find it interesting. https://goo.gl/c3L14N. Regards, James Byous

    Comment by James Byous — June 19, 2016 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for sending this link. I’m always fascinated to read what people are learning in these special places!

      Comment by Kathryn Colestock-Burke — July 1, 2016 @ 9:28 pm | Reply

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