John Spezia: Clarification needed
July 29, 2006
The Pilot & Today’s first article in a series of six about the Yampa River needs a few clarifications to start the reader off with the reality of how much water there really is in the Colorado River system.
The water drop graphic on the last page of the first article presenting the water availability in the Colorado River Basin does not represent the available water that exists. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River system produces, on the average, 13.9 million acre-feet (MAF) a year, not 17.5 MAF. Second, 2.2 MAF is lost to evaporation from the dams each year, leaving 11.7 MAF to divide up between the upper and lower basin states. The lower basin states are guaranteed 8.5 MAF, leaving 3.2 MAF, not 7.5 MAF, to the four upper basin states, which includes Colorado. In addition, California is using some of the unused water of the upper basin states. Thus, there are several MAF of water in an average year that don’t even exist, and during a drought (we are in the fifth year of one), there are 5 or 6 MAF of water that does not exist.
The point here is, if we believe that California is going to close down its present industries, commercial ventures, new residential building and growth because we want our water back, we are dreaming. To bring this point home, if we believe that the Front Range is going to stop their California-style growth when they run out of their share of our water, we are dreaming. They won’t stop growing until all the water they can buy is bought. That means all the unused water in the Yampa Valley. And then what will they do? What will we do? What will Colorado do? What will the upper and lower basin states do? Import water from Canada, which also is running out of water?
All resources are finite. In the natural world, all organisms have to abide by that reality unless they want to destroy their life support system. They have been successful for the last 3.8 billion years using this sustainable law of life. We can’t continue to borrow resources from other places or from our children’s future to maintain our present unsustainable consumption of water, or energy resources for that matter.
Russell George of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources stated in the article, “Do you want to participate or do you want to let it happen without you? That’s the hard truth about how we’ve changed the debate about water in Colorado today. This is a statewide issue.”
We, as a state and the Yampa Valley, have to change the debate, too. If the Front Range wants our water, they have to do two things: First, be efficient with their water and cut their use of water by 50 percent. Second, make their growth sustainable so there will be water for the future. Otherwise they are going to waste our precious resource and grow beyond the amount of water that is available for the state.
The water resource problem we face is us.