September 2003

Referendum A will suck the Western slope dry

By Galen Larson

Here I go sticking my nose into something a number of people will tell me I know nothing about — water — and they may be right.

B u t this I do know : O n e lives under the rule of three minutes without air, three days without water and 30 days without food. And if we don’t have water, we don’t have food.

It’s astonishing to me that, while such a strong message is being sent to us via nature, more people are not upset that the Front Range is coming after Western Slope water. Isn’t it interesting that Xcel Energy, Safeway, Hensel Phelps Construction, Vail Resorts, Phelps-Tointon Inc. (a holding company in Greeley) and California-based Shea Homes are donating large amounts of money in support of Referendum A, to be voted on in November?

With all this money coming in and the support of Governor Owens, guess who’s going to win? Oh, they’re only going to take the surplus that goes to California and Nevada and Arizona. Guess what’s to happen when we taxpayers pay for the Big Straw — the Front Range will have more votes and more water. We the Western Slope will become the new Owens Valley, like the agricultural community in California sucked dry in the late 1800s and early 1900s by chicanery, conning, and intimidation by Los Angeles politicians.

In the 1800s John Wesley Powell stated that the West doesn’t have the water to sustain a large population. The book “Cadillac Desert” by Marc Reisner confirms that, as does a book written in 1958, "The Geography of Man,” by Preston E. James. It offers a detailed history of world deserts and, like it or not, we are a desert.

For selfish politicians to build an economy on endless growth shows an ignorance of the problem or a wanton disregard for future generations. We in the 21st Century are so accustomed to getting our food from the supermarket we forget that it has to be raised or grown somewhere.

Water controls growth. With an excess of one comes a shortage of the other. To base an economy on growth is not only foolish but disastrous. Agriculture, on the other hand, can be sustained with limited growth, limited water and viable crops for export and local consumption.

The heritage left for second generations by their forefathers has almost been squandered for the quick buck of development. With modern technology and less effort this area can remain profitable and a viable agricultural area. But if the Western Slope water goes to the Front Range we will become a wasteland not fit for man, nor beast, nor development.

I challenge all Western Slope officials to come up with alternatives to help the economy, other than a prison or Wal-Mart or growth. For the rest of us, best keep our eyes wide open as to Referendum A. To give the governor — who gave us these state budget problems — the right to regulate our water would be ludicrous.