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.