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WATER, WATER….WHERE??

I am reading the series of articles about the Colorado water situation.  They are informative, but alarming at the same time. It seems that we are following the same California experience (experiment) which chases ever more water as growth follows the flow of water.  The massive aqueduct system in California sends water resources from wetter northern California to parched southern California. This is to quench the thirst of the cities and to irrigate crops that cannot survive without these copious flows of fresh water. This program will fail in the long run.

The Frying Pan – Arkansas project was to take care of our water needs far into the future. It was fought by environmental organizations as a boondoggle. Were they wrong?  Now Colorado is looking for new sources of water and additional storage capacity to cover the shortfall in the near future. One farmer in the Chieftain article even commented that we may have to bring in water from the Mississippi River. I rather doubt that the farmers or the cities will put up the money for something this grandiose.

What is the solution?  More diversion?  More storage?  Who is going to supply this water? Annual precipitation will stay the same in the best of times or fall off precipitously in times of drought. Are those in charge of our water resources going to drain every lake and river in Colorado to feed the population growth?  Building more reservoirs with a finite amount of water is like the story of the man who wanted to buy a new car but only had a thousand dollars in his checking account. His solution was to open 10 more checking accounts!!  

This could very well be the case from observing recent trends in the use (misuse) of water. During a time of water deficits, the cities and farms continue to call for more and more water. Even during times of drought, new developments, homes and industries are authorized. There is a saying: “Water runs uphill toward money.” In the case of southern Colorado this can be taken both figuratively and literally!

There is a Chinese proverb: “Unless you change directions, you are apt to end up where you started from.”  Thus, if we do not discontinue the present policy of the three “D’s”; Drain, Divert and Dam, then false premises will prevent us from providing a long term solution that will provide future generations with water. The answer to our water problems, and many environmental problems, is to limit growth; no more housing developments until the developer can be assured of an adequate supply of water into perpetuity. If the supply of irrigation water dries up in times of drought, much of our agricultural land will blow away just as it did in the 1930s. Does Colorado and the arid West suffer from historical amnesia?

 We must think of the quality of life and not just the quantity of life. Eventually, southern California, Las Vegas, Nevada, Phoenix, Arizona, the greater Denver area and other desert or semi-desert communities will have to “bite the bullet” and realize that growth must be limited if they are going to avert a major water catastrophe. Civilizations have risen and fallen in the arid regions of the world depending on the availability of water. Piping water in from afar results in more growth which requires more water which results in more growth.   The problem is never solved.  

Our politicians must look further into the future for our water independence than just focusing on their being reelected. A real solution must be found rather than the very short term solution of just stealing water from other parts of the state or country or building more reservoirs. We must look toward limiting growth in the semi-arid West.  The present water policy in Colorado, the United States, and the world is like a runaway train heading toward a grotesque, ludicrous, and unnecessary crash. The present policy is unsustainable. 

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Comment by John Duke on February 24, 2011 at 1:33pm
I just came across the RainPerfect solar system for gardening, which looks interesting. The cost is about $150. http://www.ittflowcontrol.com/home-and-garden/rb280-100-rainperfect.... I haven't gotten to that stage in my project yet, but I'm hoping to also reduce water consumption through native plants and rain garden techniques.
Comment by Tim Bullock on February 23, 2011 at 10:34am
John, I realize that this is a political issue but I agree that it is also an individual issue and should/could be adressed by everyone concerned about our very futures. We are currently designing a home off the grid and are using a rainwater recovery system....collecting water that flows downhill is hardly a "system" but it does have a cache to it. Unfortunately, we MUST install a conventional system for the gray water as we have no sanitary water needs on this project. NOW that is politics "squared" as we do have a great option for grey water that is both simple and inexpensive and environmentally friendly. We do not have a team of lawyers to fight the system so must conform. Tim
Comment by John Duke on February 22, 2011 at 10:30pm

You are addressing an issue that has large governmental policy issues. Given that this is a log house forum, I'd be interested in what we as individual homeowners can do other than politic over it -- things like recapturing rain water, constructing rain gardens, using gray water etc. -- especially in the context of a log house. I no longer live in parched California, so it is not as immediate issue for me. I don't disagree with your comments, but I would like to see discussion here for how log housing people can respond, especially those living in the western states.

 

John

Comment by Tim Bullock on February 22, 2011 at 9:16pm
Sad but True.....As long as there is a minimum charge for water usage.....noone will ever have the incentive to conserve. eg. Our water charges are based on a minimum of 1500/gal/mo...we have a friend that uses 500 ga/mo but must pay for 1500 gal/mo. Why is it cheaper per kwh when you consume more? This is ass backwards but big coal and even bigger utilities want us to use more and more and more until it is all gone. Good article. Thanks, Tim

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