River no more, and no wonder
Recently, this observer attended a briefing on “The State of the Colorado River.” Dozens of water bureaucrats from dozens of water/weather agencies were present to impart their collective knowledge or -- in some cases -- ignorance to a crowd that filled the district court room.
At the outset, we were told that recreational uses of the water in the Upper Colorado Basin are at the bottom of the food chain. Apparently, when we mountain folk use our lakes and streams for boating and fishing, that is recreational use. But when people who live down on the Front Range and Metro Denver use our water on their golf courses, or to fill their lakes or to wash their RVs, that is not recreational use. Hmmn.
One speaker, from the official body charged with making Colorado’s water policy, told us two amazing things: One: Colorado’s population is forecast to increase by 93-percent over the next 30 years; however, there is not one project on the books designed to do anything about an almost 100-percent increase in water demand over the next 30 years. And two: his organization can’t tell anybody to do anything.
Another expert showed a colorful chart depicting the growth or lack of growth of tree rings. Some of the data went back to 1,400 a.d. More recent data showed the history of tree rings since 1900. Even the briefest examination of those charts by the village idiot would have revealed that we would start to experience a drought beginning about three years ago. So, who were the geniuses who decided to drain both the Green Mountain and Horse Tooth Reservoirs to repair some seepage at a time that coincided with the drought predicted by those tree rings? Couldn’t those repairs have waited for a time when the tree rings suggest plentiful rain and snowfall? Duh.
Elected officials from the Front Range counties complain about population growth. Their constituents complain about population growth, traffic congestion and crowding which will soon destroy all the beauty and values that attract people to Colorado in the first place. In the Army, we called this: crapping in your own mess kit.
So, here is the answer: Limit the amount of annual trans-mountain diversion of water to the Front Range so that what they get now is all they are going to get. Period.
That done, the choking growth along the Front Range will slow down and finally seek a level that is water sustainable. If they want more growth, then it must come from conservation of what they have. If that isn’t enough growth, then they better tax themselves to build more water impoundment reservoirs on their side of the foothills.
Probably, the most telling presentation of all – in terms of understanding the effectiveness of these vast water and weather bureaucracies (some might say half-vast) was a nice lady from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She made the flat statement that it would not rain in the Upper Colorado Basin for at least two weeks. It rained and snowed cats and dogs at our house the next day. As Will Rogers used to say, “Just be happy you are not getting all the government you are paying for.”
Meanwhile, no one had a plan to do anything concrete or scientific except to hope that El Nino will form, once again, off the coast of Mexico. Hello? How about impounding more water along the Front Range rather than use our water for their golf courses, for their lakes and to wash their RVs?
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn – a novel about terrorist attacks on the Moffat Tunnel, the Adams Tunnel, The Farr Pump Plant and The Grand Ditch in the Colorado high country. (See: www.thegrandconspiracy.com)
©2002. William Hamilton.