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"Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink"

I stayed in the Colorado Mountains for a few weeks in the summer of ’05. The locals in Crested Butte where I stayed have one thing primarily on their minds other than the tourist business of course and that is water.Water, fresh potable water, is something that we all take for granted in our everyday lives. We drink it, bathe in it, use it in our industries and yes, even fish in it. With the United States population continuing to grow we are faced with an ever-increasing demand for clean freshwater.In the western states the majority of their freshwater comes from the melting snow pack in the Rocky Mountains. Over the last 35 years the average annual temperature across the west has increased one to three degrees. These warmer conditions have resulted to the snow pack melting up to three weeks earlier than normal. With the creation of early wet conditions caused by warmer temperatures there has been a surge in the growth of woody plants in the west.Because the western states have increased their water use and due to changes in water availability, water conservation districts in the west are instituting water rationing for farmers. As an example in Pershing County, Nevada farmers are allotted only a fraction of the water needed to farm all their land. The county’s reservoir is at 17% of capacity and falling.With nine western states still facing drought conditions for the seventh year in a row, even after an above average snow pack this winter, steps are being implemented to conserve water. In Denver, Colorado 1.2 million residents are allowed to water their lawns only twice a week. Without the spring rains this year even more radical steps will be taken and severe cost increases are envisioned. With timber and soils very dry several states are on an extremely high forest fire alert – California is burning. In Montana trout fishing guides will shut down operations early if the spring rains don’t come. Hundreds of small cattle ranches are facing foreclosure due to the lack of forage from water shortages and rationing.These water usage regulations both enacted and proposed are only short-term actions that will not do anything to increase the amount of water available. California is taking a more long-term approach to the problem through the building desalination plants. There are currently 20 desalinations plants of various capacities under construction in the Golden State.The largest is a proposed plant in San Diego that will produce 50 million gallons of drinking water a day. Desalination is not cheap and an acre-foot of desalinated water costs about $1,000. An acre-foot of water is about enough to supply an average family for a year. If all the desalination plants that at planned come on line the needs of about one million California residents would be met.Even though the Gulf Coast of the United States seems to have all the water it needs for drinking at moment, the vegetables and meat we eat come primarily from the western states so what affects one is felt by all others. Florida has recently demanded review rights over any federal water resource projects in Georgia and Alabama that may affect its citizens.The line from the ˜Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge seems to apply – ˜nor any drop to drink”.

Act Global – Think Local!


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