Last Sunday as I started this article there were hundreds of geese hunkered down on the Platte River sandbar approximately 50 yards from our cabin kitchen table. Since the lakes are frozen over, the geese were drawn to that area so they could be near the narrow strip of fast-moving icy water by the riverbank. Geese were lined up in an almost perfect symmetrical order. It was a peaceful winter scene.

Geese are interesting to watch and good communicators. They mate for life and protect their mates. When a mate is killed and taken away by a hunter, the other mate will stay in the area and call out for its mate until all hope is lost. They appear to mourn with their sad calls that echo down the river.

Our small cabin has provided a great place to find those quiet moments to study the abundant wildlife. Our bird feeders attract a variety of birds including rare birds like the Bluebirds and Orioles. The bird feeders also attract squirrels that show creative ways to overcome “squirrel-proof” inventions.

There are occasional glimpses of red foxes and coyotes. There are bobcats in the area and mountain lion prints were spotted by a nearby friend. Last summer I saw my first ever leatherback turtle. Its shell flexed as it walked away.

Watching wildlife and the river has given me cause for concern. Wildlife relies on the Platte River for survival. Our community does too since it’s the primary source of our water supply. The challenge is water supplies are out of sight and out of mind for most.

Our cabin well is about 37’-0” deep before it hits bedrock. We should always have a water supply available, but the water quality will continue to decline. Of course, all of us share those concerns to some degree.

The Lincoln Water System does a good job of supplying good-tasting quality water to our community, but pollution makes that challenge more difficult each year.

Sadly, it’s common to see cans and bottles floating down the Platte River. Last summer thousands were collected under the I-80 Platte River bridge. Recent objects seen floating down the river have been coolers, refrigerators, doors, propane tanks, grass clippings, and the list goes on.

Other major threats to our water supply come from rain leaching chemicals from fields and lush green lawns. Even manufacturing operations cause concerns like the proposed chicken processing plant in Fremont, Nebraska that will process up to 344K chickens a day. The treated effluent water from that plant will end up in the Platte River.

Each of us can make a difference to conserve and improve the quality of our water. An obvious improvement is fixing water leaks in piping and dripping faucets. Another example is in making good plumbing choices, like choosing the right water softener.

For instance, Deb and I installed a saltless water softener at our condo and cabin. Why handle bags of salt or sand it down a drain?

Saltless softeners do not need regeneration, which is backflushing water down the drain like most water softeners; this saves thousands of gallons annually. Saltless water softeners are a better choice for private lagoons and septic tank systems. The quality of water from the salt-less soft water system has been very good.

Another water-saving device is the Honeywell TruEase humidifier which saves water and energy. It can save 5,000 to 10,000 gallons a year and closely control relative humidity levels. Typical humidifiers send three to four gallons of water down the drain for every one gallon delivered through humidity.

The Honeywell cruise controls adjust to outside air temperatures to prevent moisture on the windows. Humidifiers should be considered a necessity to promote health during cold Nebraska winters.

What goes into the rivers comes back to us in diluted form as potable water that we drink. Reverse Osmosis (R.O.) systems are a great way to remove 28 or so harmful pollutants.

If you want to see a saltless softener, a Honeywell TruEase humidifier, a Reverse Osmosis System, or discuss other water-saving methods, feel free to stop by the John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, Air, and Electrical’s booth at the Nebraska Builders Home & Garden Show at the Lancaster Event Center on February 10th through February 12th. Show hours are Friday 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and Sunday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

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