Growing up, I spent every summer camping with my family and two other families — the Hodges and the Neumans — beside a beautiful trout stream near the top of Ebbetts Pass.
Even back then our parents were wise enough not to take our drinking water from the creek. Every few days we would dive several miles uphill to the box spring to fill our various jugs and other containers with pure spring water that flowed from a pipe coming out of a box spring.
If you are a city dweller, it is likely that you take safe clean water as a regular fact of life. But nothing could be further from the truth.
One of the major causes of disease worldwide is the lack of clean water. I have belonged to Rotary International for over 35 years, and many times we have participated in clean-water projects around the globe, from Africa, to Europe and from Central America to the Philippines.
The kind of water projects we sponsored ranged from wells to rooftop collection systems to box springs, and all were designed to provide the local people with safe clean water. Invariably, as soon as a clean water system comes available to a village, the health of the entire village gets better.
If you find a water source in Africa, for example, it is utilized not only by humans but by animals as well — both wild animals and domestic critters like cattle, sheep and goats. Sure enough, after a herd of animals have waded into a pond and drunk their fill, the water is contaminated and the humans who follow get all kinds of diseases from the water.
A box spring, whether in the Africa, Asia, the Sierra Nevada, or Death Valley, helps to ensure that water does not get contaminated. They are built on a concept that is thousands of years old and still works today.
Here’s how they work:
If you are lucky enough to find a natural spring where water flows from the earth, you dig around the sides to form a pool of fresh water. Then you build a box around the spring to animals from contaminating the pool. Often times, early pioneers would stack rock walls around a spring and use no mortar so that the clean water could enter the pool. On the downhill side of the box they used mortar and created an exit pipe that led to another pool or water trough that animals could drink from.
The collection box itself could be made from boards rocks or concrete and then a roof was built over the box to keep out the critters as well as falling leaves, pine needles, etc.
A well-constructed box spring can last seemingly forever, as is evidenced by some of the Roman water systems that have lasted over 2,000 years. Even today whenever I head for the hills it’s amazing how many times I find a box spring that’s still producing clear, clean water. Dang that stuff tastes great!
Until next week,