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Less water, more people ??? what to do?

With the world’s population reaching seven billion this year and rising there will be issues to confront. This increase in our numbers has and will put a severe strain on the basic planetary resources that are needed to sustain us. Those resources include water, food and living space.

In our area of the country we seldom think about there being enough water for our ever need and indulgence, let alone local and state governments restricting its collection when it falls from the sky. But, it true.

According to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on person’s property is not theirs. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow into surrounding water systems. By state law it becomes the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways. There is over a hundred years of law associated with these rights.

A recent case close to Telluride, Colorado a home owner collected the rainwater runoff from the roof of his house for watering his personal vegetable garden. The local water authority didn’t like that and had something to say about it.

“If you try to collect rainwater, well, that water really belongs to someone else,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress. “We get into a very detailed accounting on every little drop.”

Some facts are that Americans use about 100 gallons of water a day. The needy of poor countries use less than five gallons a day. In developing countries women walk nearly four miles a day for water while we just turn on a tap. In 15 years 1.8 billion people will live in areas of severe water shortages.

All recent rainfall to the contrary, 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 Fahrenheit. 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 due to changes their populations and water availability, water conservation districts in the west have instituted water rationing for farmers. In spite of recent heavy rainfall nine western states still face drought conditions.

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. In an attempt to use what they already have the main earthen water canal from northern California to the Los Angeles basin has been lined with concrete to prevent seepage and save 22 billion gallons of water a year.

Even though the Gulf Coast seems to have all the water it needs for drinking and other uses at moment, the vegetables and meat we eat come primarily from the western states so what affects one is felt by all others. California produces half of all the US vegetables, fruits and nuts.

Think Global – Act Local!


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