Water use demands attention now
April 4, 2002
The debate rages on as to whether or not magnesium chloride is desirable or safe for vegetation, fish or even cocktails. Yet, regardless of this there is a substantial environmental impact made by mag chloride that no one seems to be pointing out, and at a crucial time of the year: It creates a huge demand for water to accommodate the huge number of cars that need to be washed.
I’m sure you’ve noticed how brisk business has been at local car washes. And where does their water come from? The same place everybody’s water comes from, for every imaginable use – our local rivers.
And do you realize how low the water gets in the winter? This winter was the lowest I’ve seen our local rivers in 11 years of living in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Water is directly involved in the lives and livelihoods of basically everyone – in a lot more ways than most of us realize. Not only do we depend upon it to survive and run our households, but commercially and recreationally we depend upon it as ranchers, farmers, fishermen, kayakers, rafters, landscapers, florists, golfers, skiers, etc.
Another special interest group that usually receives unfair representation in the world of water consumption/conservation are the majority of plant, animal, bird and fish species that depend upon riparian systems for their very survival. After 4-5 years of local drought, we have a serious problem headed our way, as do many parts of the nation this year.
I would like to think that our local and state politicians are looking ahead now, planning and acting before the problem is staring us in the face, as is the usual course of (in)action regarding governments.
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The town of Basalt has long recognized the importance of river flows to its local economy, and has recently shown itself to be thinking ahead with its proposal to raise water rates for its largest consumers. Perhaps it is time for other communities to consider the same thing.
Perhaps if we act now, we can eradicate some of the usual antagonism and name calling between various special interests that often occurs with public debates over big issues, as the water issue is going to become.
I think there are very gaping holes in the public knowledge regarding water supply, use and law, and think that we could all benefit greatly as a community if some of our leaders can step forward and attempt to better educate the public – something too few politicians do in the scramble to pursue and gain support for their agendas.
Colorado water law is a very complicated subject, which takes an investment of time and effort to gain knowledge of, especially for average working people. I don’t think it’s beyond our expectations as citizens to look to our local government officials to have some understanding of and to provide us some basic knowledge regarding water law and rights, how they are applied locally and how they are being enforced.
Perhaps our local papers could also help in this effort, as the defunct Roaring Fork Sunday did a few years back with an excellent article on the Roaring Fork watershed (can this be found and reprinted?), especially since we constantly have new people arriving here from all over the country and world.
I don’t pretend to know Colorado water law, but it seems like viewing water more as a free market commodity instead of a “right,” where its price fluctuates with its demand, will go a long way toward fairly allotting its usage and its conservation.
I would like to know where the money goes when someone purchases a water right, and what is that money used for? It also strikes me as wasteful and antiquated that parts of state water law require users to divert the full amount of their water right or risk losing that right (even drying up streams in some instances, like the Colorado in Glenwood Canyon), and why can’t someone convert an existing water right to an instream flow right?
In the meantime, as those issues are being debated in the state legislature, let’s all do our best as citizens to conserve and educate ourselves. And let’s hope that our officials are looking ahead now with solutions that are fair, and above all, SUSTAINABLE.
Let’s hope that they realize their decisions on subjects as widespread as development, mag chloride, land and water use are often related to each other as well as to the legacy those decisions leave, so that what we are doing now will not inhibit future generations of human and other living things to call this place home. Though we often take it for granted, much of the world is finding out that water is the most key element to making a community sustainable.
Therefore, I invite all interested parties, from local representatives and from agencies such as the Division of Water Resources, to private citizens or nonprofit groups, to respond in a public forum to any of the aspects of this letter, to get their assessment of the situation and their proposed solutions to it, and to help in the cause of public education regarding water conservation, so that we all may live together in a sustainable and civilized fashion.
David E. Johnson