Thinking About Water At The Waterway


The other day I thought a ghost was flushing the toilet in my house. I was standing in the kitchen when I heard a slight moan, followed by a metallic-sounding whang and a rush of water. But I was the only one home. I was nervous for about two seconds, until I remembered the sump pump. 

The house was indeed being flushed. Water that would otherwise have seeped into my basement was presently streaming into a small depression in my yard. It sounded like the house had moved its bowels, because in a way, it had.

What a weird thing, a sump pump. I still don’t really understand how it works, despite the fact that my husband and I have spent many thousands of dollars making sure that it does, especially after a power outage last year.

I guess groundwater — the water table, what have you — rises when there’s a storm. The Earth is soaked, and the topmost layers of its crust just can’t absorb it all. This planet has so much water that it sometimes becomes too much to handle. 

The ways humans deal with water is one of the weirdest things about the built environment. Don’t go here, we tell the water, but instead flow this way. No, not that route, that’s a road — go over here, where we have built a course for you, maybe a ditch or a pipe or an aqueduct.  

One day we will have a different problem. There will not be enough water. The bowels of my house will contain a highly valued resource. People in the American West will feel this problem long before I do, but at some point I will also feel it, maybe because without water-based evaporative cooling, it will be too hot to live in the Midwest. Or maybe for other reasons. Like an asteroid or something punches into the atmosphere and boils it all off.

This week I am stuffed into a dark and freezing ballroom, for work, but I have been stealing breaks to look around outside. There is a waterway behind the hotel, flowing darkly between concrete banks and planted grass. The whole thing appears to have been constructed on purpose, to resemble a river-fed city. The planned community is called The Woodlands and the hotel and convention center is called The Waterway.

What would an anthropologist from the future think of this place? I wonder if she would laugh at the absurdity of some urban planners trying to replicate natural wonder.

I think I need a drink.

Image credit: Herr Hans Gruber via Flickr/CC BY 2.0


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