Our natural resource more valuable than oil – Longmont Times-Call
November 2nd is election day, and the main subject has not yet hit the Times Call pages for me. There are many arguments about growth and taxes. But nothing is said about water. Why? I think the main reason is that we have had enough now and we have a huge reservoir in the foreshore that will last for a while.
I went to Longmont’s Ralph Price Reservoir and was impressed by its size. The city of Denver also has reservoirs in the foothills and beyond. But how long is “a while”?
We arrived in Colorado in June 1976 and learned that nobody wanted me here, including my own clerks. In the 1970s, people flocked to Colorado from both coasts because it was known as a progressive state that was putting aside greenery and open spaces. And the growth seemed to be done. The people who have been here – some called them “natives” – prided themselves on special license plates that showed their previously arrived priority status.
Then passed the Highlands Ranch with a planned ward of 100,000. And suddenly water became a problem. This community now has around 97,000 residents and continues to expand south into Douglas County, using excess water borrowed from various small towns in the Denver area. If a drop of water swims anywhere on the Front Range, the developers quickly devour it as the state slurps into the plain.
The September issue of High Country News includes a map depicting the shrinking Colorado River. And although mighty Colorado begins in our state, it serves over 40 million people in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California. In addition, the compact division of the river in 1922 is overdue for revision.
But, and it’s a big one, since then new demands have been placed on the Colorado: to fill the Central Arizona Project – a 3 meter deep and 237 mile long canal that irrigates Phoenix, Tucson, and the many swimming pools and golf courses in between; Farmland, golf courses, and swimming pools in southern Utah; and increasing demand from the population growth in Las Vegas. Worse still is an almost continuous drought that is sucking Lake Powell and Lake Mead to their lowest historical levels. Boat ramps on Powell have been pulled back so far that they are unusable.
Mexico is promised a portion that is now a trickle south of Yuma, Arizona. I’ve been there, and without a Bureau of Reclamation desalination plant, the water is useless.
As the new Coloradan 1976, I still remember the mild winter of 1977 and the drought that followed. Denver and the surrounding suburbs were subject to mandatory water restrictions. We could run sprinklers for a couple of hours twice a week. I have never seen such a nature reserve in Longmont, because we have enough for the “time” I was talking about. The opposite is the case where green spaces are irrigated by the city at any time of the day.
In the late 1980s, I was visiting a friend on a work trip in Albuquerque. There was a $ 50 fine for draining sprinklers in streets and gutters.
Some things will have to change. For example, our HOA requires that all houses have green grass on 50% of the yards. That is too much, especially when nature gives us about a foot of rainfall annually. My home state of Virginia is getting four times as much and experiencing its own droughts. A deeper digging of wells is no longer possible because the aquifers dry up. And then there is fracking, in which every well devours millions of liters of water that cannot be brought back and reused. And the mythical “while” disappears.
It’s time Longmont got smarter with water. Let’s do our part to conserve our most precious natural resource.
Bill Ellis lives in Longmont and is the author of six novels. Reply to [email protected]