George Longenecker: Either too much water, or too little | will it snow in florida

This commentary is by George Longenecker, a resident of Middlesex.

I snowshoe with our dog to the height of land in the woods behind our house. Though the snow is sticky, the snow-draped pines are beautiful. The first winter outings are always special. 

However, as I was enjoying the snow, 100,000 homes from Hartford to Guilford had lost power. 

It’s all about water. In Vermont, we depend upon water for agriculture. We depend on water for recreation, from skiing in winter to swimming and boating on our lakes and ponds in summer. 

I look forward to the first ski or snowshoe. I love the calls of loons as I paddle my kayak in summer. I wait for the first harvest of tomatoes, lettuce and squash. 

Yet here, as in most of the world, water is more unreliable than ever. While rainfall and snowfall have always been fickle, climate change has led to disastrous weather worldwide.

In 1985, the year our daughter was born, it hit minus 38 before the winter solstice. 37 years later, it rarely goes below zero and winter rains are more frequent. 

While it takes less fuel to heat our homes now, wet snow has led to regular, widespread power outages. After our recent storm, electric utility trucks rolled through from Quebec and other parts of New England to help. It’s taken more than three days to repair the damage.

Yet the storms and droughts we get here, with the exception of Irene in 2011, have not yet been as bad as in other parts of the U.S. and the world. In late September, Hurricane Ian left catastrophic destruction in Sanibel, Naples and Fort Myers, Florida. Now people are thinking twice about going to Florida — if they even have a place left to go to. 

Climate change is making a difference, though it’s hard to think about that while my dog and I snowshoe in the woods. It’s making a difference in Vermont and worldwide. Water — too much or too little — makes all the difference.

According to the Canadian government: “Clean, accessible water is critical to human health, a healthy environment, poverty reduction, a sustainable economy, and peace and security. Yet over 40% of the global population does not have access to sufficient clean water. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.”

Water scarcity has affected the U.S., either because of drought or failing infrastructure. The Colorado River has so little water that Lake Mead is nearly dry. This summer, Jackson, Mississippi, was without potable water as its city system failed. At the same time in South Asia, Pakistan and Bangladesh were inundated by monsoon flooding. 

I worry what will happen in our daughter’s lifetime. Sometimes it’s too much to think about, but we have to demand our governments do everything possible to slow climate change and assure that everyone has water. 

I stop for a drink from my water bottle. My dog takes a few mouthfuls of snow. Far overhead, ravens call. I enjoy the new snow, but can’t help but worry what the next year will bring.