Sunday, December 20, 2009

How little water is enough in Colorado?

Vincent Carroll in the Denver Post has a few sour thoughts at the expense of environmentalists, but he sees the issues the American west faces, even if he doesn’t like the likely outcome: Denver Water has this quaint idea that it should prepare for droughts. During the last one in 2002, after all, the agency watched as supplies for some customers in the northern suburbs nearly dried up.

So Denver Water has proposed expanding Gross Reservoir above Boulder — raising an existing dam by 125 feet, not building a new one — in order to provide a cushion for dry years and to meet future demand.

Naturally, some green critics are appalled by this prudent planning, and they are turning out at public hearings to denounce the project. Denver Water spends millions of dollars every year on programs to reduce consumption, but it's never enough for those who believe that "conservation" is the one-word answer to every resource question.

… Those who regularly oppose new supplies rarely get around to describing the ideal state of water conservation, and for good reason. In theory, we could squeeze urban water use by a staggering amount if we were willing, say, to charge exorbitant rates for lawn watering or simply ban watering altogether and force all homeowners to Xeriscape. ….Trouble is, while most of us don't mind being nudged into using somewhat less water, we don't want to be bludgeoned in that direction to satisfy the agenda of those who consider our urban oasis a sin against nature.

….With or without global warming, we're going to experience future droughts. Ironically, given that certainty, it actually would be foolish to wring every drop of conservation from the system now because then we wouldn't be able to adapt by cutting back in the face of impending shortages. The tool shed would be empty. Unless, of course, you consider a mass migration from the Front Range an acceptable coping strategy for a water shortage.

Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado, shot by Sascha Brück, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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