Water is on my mind

The water situation in both Colorado and California is much on my mind. In an interview on NPR yesterday, the interviewee spoke at length about the pressure of population growth on Los Angeles, which was never projected to grow to the size it is today or will be tomorrow. California has little water of its own and draws on water from Colorado and elsewhere for its farmers needs. The situation in Colorado with regard to water resources is not projected to be good down the road either, so one wonders what will happen to our children and our children’s children. Hopefully, we care.

Western Resource Advocates (www.westernresourceadvocates.org), a Boulder, Colorado-based NGO, recently put out a very interesting pamphlet showing Colorado to be one of the driest states in the nation, receiving only 16 inches of rain per year. The average per capita use of water in the United States is 172 gallons per day while the average per capita use in Colorado is 198 gallons of water per day. To make matters worse, Colorado is ranked one of the top fastest growing states in the nation with an expected population growth from 5 million today to 8 million by 2040, which is the equivalent of adding 5 more cities the size of Denver (roughly 650 thousand today) to the state. Obviously, this is not sustainable for Colorado itself not to mention California.

In spite of these figures, which are not a secret, Denver’s city government has adopted a population growth position based on the belief that Denver needs a bigger tax base. What an attitude! Denver is being crowded with more and more upscale, high-rise apartment buildings and still not enough space for new arrivals. The pressures on the city’s resources are untenable, the quality of life is diminishing due to over-crowding, the highways are in perpetual gridlock and overusage is having harmful and costly effects on the infrastructure. What can be done?

It seems to me that a solution for both Colorado and California might be zero growth. How do we achieve something like this? Whether this idea is constitutional or not I do not know but perhaps a solution might lie in establishing a voucher system allowing newcomers to move in only when another resident has vacated the city and/or the state through relocation or death. This cannot take into account natural growth through the birth of children to existing residents and we cannot adopt a Chinese one child per couple policy, obviously. But, try as I may, I can’t think of another viable solution.

Rationing water is something we do in times of drought but how successful or desirable is this over the long-term? Behavior change is certainly an option and might be helpful. It will be interesting to see how successful the current measures applied in California with regard to water rationing will be and whether or not people will actually respect them. Perhaps the luxury of a daily shower will become a thing of the past and we will join most of the rest of the world who are accustomed to weekly bathing? This really sounds un-American!

Anyway, I don’t know what the solutions are but, obviously, something must done and soon starting with discouraging relocation to both states.

I want to thank Western Resource Advocates for their commitment to the preservation of these precious and dwindling resources and to Aveda Centre Salon on E. Hampden Avenue in Denver for sponsoring them this month. If you are so moved, I encourage you to contribute to Western Resource Advocates in support of their commitment to preserve water and the life we love here in the west.

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