ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

MATTERS AT HAND: Region's great challenge? Living with water

Today's Herald contains the first installment of another important Forum Communications Co. project. It's called "Living with Water." The title reflects the greatest challenge facing our region -- consistent and effective water management. The re...

Today's Herald contains the first installment of another important Forum Communications Co. project.

It's called "Living with Water."

The title reflects the greatest challenge facing our region -- consistent and effective water management.

The region, for this project, means the drainage basins of the Red and Missouri rivers.

The Red River basin includes much of Minnesota's Lakes Country, as well as Devils Lake and the Souris and Sheyenne rivers in North Dakota. The Red also takes in a big part of the Canadian prairies.

ADVERTISEMENT

North and South Dakota share the Missouri River and its tributary, the James.

Thus our project includes three states and two Canadian provinces.

Examining water issues in this huge geography has involved journalists from daily newspapers in Grand Forks, Fargo, Dickinson and Jamestown, N.D., and the weekly Detroit Lakes Tribune. The Tribune was named the best weekly in Minnesota at last week's Minnesota Newspaper Association convention.

There's a broadcast component, too. WDAY and WDAZ television began airing reports about water issues Saturday. They continue these on weekends through the five-week-long project.

There's an online element, too, at AreaVoices. You can get there from our website, GrandForksHerald.com.

The project follows a similar effort in summer 2010. That one was called "Running with Oil," and brought together journalists from the Forum Co.'s North Dakota properties.

Both of these undertakings were conceived by William C. Marcil, the company chairman. He asked me to be the project manager for "Living with Water."

This undertaking reflects the Marcil family's commitment to in-depth journalism and to community service.

ADVERTISEMENT

It also showcases the company's resources and its geographical reach.

In all, more than two dozen journalists have been involved in the project. These included reporters, photographers, copy editors, designers and editorial writers.

Personnel from Forum Co.'s advertising, marketing and circulation departments have been involved, too, and so have broadcast camera operators, film editors, assigners.

Even weather forecasters.

Water problems are often a consequence of weather. Flooding is both a geological and climatological phenomenon.

Then there's drought.

For the last couple of decades, flooding has dominated our thinking about water. There have been occasional dry spells, but the trend has been toward moisture -- and way too much of it.

This season has brought a reminder that flooding is not the only water issue facing our region. The National Weather Service said last week that the Red River Valley is in moderate drought.

ADVERTISEMENT

And it didn't offer much encouragement that the drought would end soon.

At the same time, the weather service sounded a reassuring note about flooding. There's only a small chance of major flooding on the Red River this year. The same is true of most other streams in the region, so long as normal weather patterns hold.

As John Wheeler, chief meteorologist for the Forum Co.'s television stations, points out in today's installment of "Living with Water," there is really no normal when it comes to weather. There are wide variations in every aspect of weather, from temperature to precipitation.

Plainly put, our weather is extreme.

We're pretty much used to that.

Arguably, we haven't solved our water problems, however. That's because we've reacted to conditions as they are rather than how they could be. In other words, when it's dry, we build on dry land, sometimes to find that the land isn't dry at all, only temporarily above water.

Our project aims to make this point: Water is critical to our region, and we can't take it for granted. Our history shows that water can be in critically short supply, but it can also overwhelm us.

There will be five sections of "Living with Water" in all, one each Sunday through February. Today's section, called "Water where we Live," forms a kind of background for sections to come. These will deal with flooding, water supply, water quality and water management.

Water is to what we do. We have to understand that, and we have to accept that, at times, there will be too much and at other times too little.

Our challenge is to find ways to live with it. That's the point of our project.

Related Topics: MIKE JACOBS
What To Read Next