April 6, 2013
Shortly after the first settlers arrived in Colorado, water started flowing towards money. In many ways, it was a brilliant scheme for a region west of the 100th meridian, where long periods of drought are to be expected. The people who contributed their sweat and toil to divert water that would otherwise rush unimpeded to the Arkansas, Colorado and Missouri rivers, derived profit from their labor. 150 years later, we struggle with the monetization of this critical human resource, but the concept of “highest and best use,” coupled with capital markets that flex enough to reward efficiency, may yet save the day.
There’s a lot of water we as individuals can save, and some public areas we should absolutely keep green. In the meantime, we should still pray for a 1992-like 9-foot snow storm in April.
While I was serving on the Colorado Environment 2000 task force in the early 1990’s, we went to a hearing in Glenwood Springs and one of the farmers in the audience stood up, scratched his chin, looked around with a grin, and said, “Let me get this straight. You want us to change how we irrigate our fields in order to save lots of water for you city folks? Ok. I can do that. But you’re sure going to dry up a whole bunch of wetlands. I thought you loved them, too.”
Choices are painful, but we’ll probably have to make some this year.