Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Drought problems require new thinking

An op-ed by Neil S. Grigg in the Coloradoan: Benjamin Franklin might as well have been talking about Colorado when he said, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” This truism is reverberating right now across the Midwest with a severe drought and major losses to agriculture and the environment. In some places it started in 2011, when the country set a record in July for the greatest recorded extent of exceptional drought. A year later the extent of all drought in the U.S. set another record.

While history shows that droughts end eventually, the underlying problem of water scarcity in Colorado is worrisome. Studies show that our demands are outstripping supplies, even in normal years, and something must change if we are to adapt successfully. Water scarcity is a worldwide issue due to climate change, population growth and rising aspirations. In some places, it could even spark wars between upstream and downstream states. Here in Colorado, we have wells cut off, ski areas looking for snow, looming water restrictions, and threats to our fisheries and water-related biodiversity.

What can be done? There is plenty of advice about urban water conservation, but how can we balance water security for all necessary uses with favorable outcomes to the economy, environment and society? This challenge is hard to understand because water is a unique resource and problems can’t be solved by magic bullets. Sometimes water is a commodity to be sold, and sometimes it is a resource needed for public and environmental uses as it moves from place to place. It’s hard to put water management in a box, because neither the market nor the government has all the answers.

Often, the result of proposals for water improvement is conflict over what to do. Some conflict is good because it sharpens our understanding of shared values and needs, but evidence shows that conflict often leads to government regulation and court decisions that cost a lot without making much improvement. New institutions for problem-solving and cooperation are needed. Should they be new government agencies and rules, or what should they be?....

A dried up lake in Oklahoma, shot by Al Jazeera English, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr,under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My spouse and I stumbled over here different page and thought I might check things
out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking at your web page for a second time.

Feel free to surf to my web site;