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Brock: Nothing more important in southwest ND than water

Harvey Brock

Unlike my neighbors, friends and co-workers who waste their valuable free time on silly summertime hobbies like fishing, camping or golf, I spend the majority of mine watering the lawn, flowers and a few tomato plants.

I can't believe folks leave such summer fun as dragging garden hoses around to automated sprinklers. How fun is that? I seldom go more than a day without hand watering, but earlier this week I slacked off and missed a couple of consecutive days. The plants and lawn looked like they were minutes away from cardiac arrest.

Watering the plants, I remembered driving through the Badlands the previous week and admiring how unusually green it still was in the park. Yet, only a week and a few 90-degree days later, the hillsides seemingly turned brown overnight, like my tomatoes. My dying tomato plants and the browning hills reminded me how arid our climate is in southwestern North Dakota and how precious the water we have is.

Like my tomato plants, we can't live without water and water stories have been in the news multiple times lately, both good and bad. There was the company that allegedly converted a dry oil well into a salt water disposable well without the proper pipe for that operation, which put our groundwater at risk. A number of companies and people have been fined for illegally tapping into water supplies exposing the lines to reverse contamination.

One trucker was fined for dumping salt water into a field, and it is hard to imagine he was the only one doing it.

There have been the normal water breaks that have left small communities and neighborhoods with limited water or without water at all.

There is the ongoing story on the battle between our state and a federal proposal to charge for commercial use of water drawn from Lake Sakakawea.

The news about water hasn't all been bad. There is exciting positive news. The technology is now available to allow oil companies to recycle water used for hydraulic fracturing in North Dakota, even if implementing that technology in the Bakken will take some time.

Our state has invested millions to ensure we have available water for generations to come. Oil is paying a lot of those bills and thankfully, except for a few exceptions, energy companies are good stewards of our most valuable commodity. Nothing is more important than water, and it's something none of us should take for granted.

I hate to think of someday turning on the faucet only to find the garden hose was empty.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press. Email him at