Deep water

This “vision” is one of the 30+ that we’ll publish here in the next months. Most of them will go into Life Plus 2 Meters, Volume 2 (expected publication: Dec 2017). We hope that you will comment on the message, suggest ways to sharpen the narrative, and tell us how the story affects your understanding of adapting to climate change.

Most importantly, we hope that you enjoy reading these stories and share them with your friends and family. —David Zetland (editor) and the authors


“It’s all ruined,” Peter shouted and threw his arms up in the air. His gaze was locked on the screen as he followed the images from the drone circling the fields.

“No, Dad. I’m sure they’ll be fine,” John insisted. “They just need some water.”

Peter turned to face his son while he scratched the back of his neck, stirring up his neatly combed grey hair. John was the only person on the farm who dared argue with him. Maybe it was because he had inherited that snub nose from his mother; a definite sign of stubbornness and determination.

“But why isn’t his crop looking like that?” Peter steered the drone towards the neighbouring field where long neat rows of organic cotton plants appeared on the monitor, happily stretching their fluffy heads towards the cloudless sky. John shrugged.

“Are the sensors working?” Peter asked.

“Everything’s fine. I just checked. The irrigation system was initiated last night when the moisture level in the ground dropped to three.” John pointed at a chart on the screen in front of him. “Don’t worry, Dad.”

Peter took a deep breath to calm his voice before speaking.

“Check the well. Let’s see if the pump is working.” He pointed at another screen standing on its own in a corner of the room. He could not remember the last time he had switched that on.

John got up and walked over to the small monitor that was fixed unto the turquois painted wall. It powered up almost instantaneously. Peter followed his son and joined him in front of the screen. It displayed the inside of the groundwater borehole that supplied the entire farm with water.

“See – everything’s fine.” John turned towards his father.

Peter stepped closer to the screen as if to make sure he had not missed anything.

“But it doesn’t look like anything’s coming up from the ground.”

He walked back to the main control system and requested another set of data to be made into a new report. Peter raised his eyebrows and tapped the screen once, his jaw slowly dropping as his heart started to beat faster.

“But where’s the water? Nothing’s coming out of the ground.”

He showed John the numbers on the screen.

“We need to check it out.”

***

On their way to the borehole, Peter picked up a halfway grown cabbage from their field. Its outer leaves were wilted and they folded over his hand as he held it up for inspection. Dust from the dry earth swivelled up, making him sneeze. He wiped his sticky face with his free hand, trying not to touch his sore mouth. Slowly he licked his lips in a futile effort to prevent them from cracking. The taste of earth and blood mixed on his tongue.

“They need water very soon. Otherwise we won’t be able to sell them,” he muttered.

“It’ll probably rain soon,” John suggested. Peter knew he was trying to cheer him up, so he answered in a milder tone of voice than he usually would.

“I don’t think there’s a chance of that happening, son. You know there hasn’t been any rain in this region for more than a decade.” Peter patted John on the back and felt his son’s drenched shirt cling to his hand.

“The only water around here, is the sea that keeps getting closer to us every year. Who would’ve thought; in your lifetime alone, it’s gotten two meters higher.”

The borehole was covered with a light blue aluminium lid. It had lost the shiny gloss from when it was first installed, but the scorching sun had not caused the colour to fade yet.

“Right. Let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on down there.”

Peter took out a tiny sentinel drone and opened the narrow shaft next to the borehole before slipping it in. The drone made a low buzzing sound and disappeared into the ground. They followed its flight broadcasted from Peter’s wrist-pad.

Numbers appeared at the bottom of the video transmission as the drone reached the level of the pump. Peter looked up at his son and shook his head.

“It’s his fault,” he sighed, and nodded towards their neighbour. “If he only grew something that didn’t need so much water.”

“What do you mean? What’s happened?” John asked.

“He’s pumped up so much groundwater, that the water table has been lowered. Our borehole isn’t deep enough anymore. Why do people need to wear clothes from organic cotton, anyway?”

Peter sighed, turned off the screen on his wrist-pad and instructed the tiny drone to return.

“I’m sure we can drill a deeper hole to get to the water,” John said. “Don’t you think, Dad?”

“It’ll be expensive,” Peter replied.

John shifted his feet and stuck his hands in his pocket while he squinted at his father. For the first time this morning he seemed to be unsure about the situation.

“What else can we do?” he asked.

Peter looked towards the coast where the horizon was covered in a dark blue hazy mist. A cluster of sliver coloured tanks was visible to those who had a good eyesight.

“We’ll have to get connected to the desalination plant.”

“But that’ll take months,” John exclaimed. Peter nodded slowly as he closed the lid to the borehole. A drop of sweat fell from the tip of his nose and onto the blue lid. It only took seconds for it to evaporate.

“But all the crops will be dead by then.”

“Yes, they will,” Peter said as he began walking towards the farmhouse.


Tanja Bisgaard was born in Trinidad and Tobago, raised in Brazil and Norway, and now lives in Denmark. A born globetrotter, she has studied and worked in the UK, Switzerland and Slovenia, and has travelled to even more countries. Writing climate fiction (cli-fi) lets her create attention about a topic she is passionate about. (Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash)

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