September 2010

Water, water everywhere?

By Galen Larson

Water, water all around and not a drop to drink. The more houses we build, the more runs down the sink.

We here on the beautiful Western Slope do not have much in the form of industry. But we have an ingredient that can and would sustain us and others if we use it wisely.

Water and agriculture — two items one cannot live without. We had better open our eyes and make a stand to protect both. Water runs to money uphill or down, turbulent or placid — money directs its course.

Just look at Colorado's Front Range. It has already taken the water away from its farmers. The Arkansas River water has been sold, affecting Rocky Ford canteloupes and other agriculture.

Ah, you say, we can get our foodstuffs from other nations. Stop and think for a minute. Do you believe an underpaid peon in another nation cares about the product he sends us? I for one do not relish the thought of my shrimp being raised in sewage in Taiwan or wondering who pissed on my celery in Peru. Unwashed hands picking my plums, meat mixed with meats from other countries with less stringent regulation — ugh. We have some of the strictest food rules, yet e. coli and salmonella pop up regularly. Imagiune how much worse things will be if we let all our food be grown in foreign countries.

Products locally raised and locally sold should be our motto. Healthy, wholesome food is a lot cheaper than a trip to the emergency room, to say nothing of the anguish of a funeral.

And in order to keep agriculture, we have to have water — plenty of it. The Front Range has used up all its sources and is greedily looking at the Western Slope. They fully intend to siphon water from Flaming Gorge reservoir with a pipeline down Interstate 80 to 25 to Denver and the Front Range. Can't do it, you say? Ask the people in Owen Valley, Calif. L.A. took their water in the late 1800s to early 1900s and dried up an agricultural valley, and now after years of court battles are now graciously pumping them back L.A. sewage.

From Washington to our local we have been led to believe that growth, meaning sprawl, is the only way to progress. Throughout the world we are screwing ourselves away from the table, ignoring the fact there is only so much potable water and agricultural land available on this planet.

Last September the Cadillac of irrigation districts in California's San Joaquin Valley was and still is in a fight for irrigation water. The politicians and residents blame everyone and everything for the problem. No one stated the fact; population and growth were the culprits.

Only termites can survive on houses; human beings need meat, vegetables and potable water. Speaking of potable water, San Diego has a state-of-the-art reclamation plant that makes sewage water into allegedly potable water. (I'll take my bourbon neat, please hold the water, thank you!). That certainly gives one pause. I could maybe get by on faith that the urine and fecal matter have been processed out, but I have some problems with the pharmaceutical products that remain due to the fact they cannot be filtered out. Remember, the byproduct of every drug we take gets excreted into our sewage systems.

We here on the Western Slope so far have good clear water, but not an abundance of it, and there will be a lot less when the Front Range brings its money into play. We are like an arranged marriage with the often-used comforting words “who is joined here today let no man put asunder,” and we know how long that statement lasts when it comes to money and lawyers.

A short true story about how water controls behavior. I at one time in Arizona worked for a fellow who purchased a ranch. No one had worked it for six or seven years. Their cattle were wild and spooky. We couldn’t get close to them using two horses apiece each day. Finally we covered all but one water hole with brush and built a corral around the open one, sat back and waited. Within three days, here they came and walked right into the corral.

Well, we are no different from those animals. He who controls the water controls life.

Water, water all around and not a drop to drink — just because we failed to think.

Galen Larson writes from rural Montezuma County, Colo.