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The whole story on Ref. A

Dear Editors:

There’s an easy way to figure out when someone isn’t telling the whole story. The way I do it is by asking the person a simple question about their story – a question I know he can answer if he wants to. If he won’t give me an answer, then I know I’ve asked him to tell me something he doesn’t want me to know. I know I’m not getting the whole story. It’s pretty simple, really.

Colorado’s Gov. Bill Owens is the highest-ranking proponent of a ballot question that all of us in Colorado are going to be asked to vote on in about three months. Referendum A, as it’s being pitched (see language below), would allow the state to float $2 billion in bonds to go toward water storage/infrastructure. Of that money, $100 million would be designated to tighten up the existing water system. The rest would go toward new “projects.”

Owens has a plan in mind for that $2 billion. He knows exactly where it’s going to go, and he’s being asked by opponents of Referendum A to tell them specifically where that is. But he’s not answering them.

The governor has said only that the $2 billion will go toward building small storage systems, and he’s mentioned improvements to the existing water systems, but he won’t say where, or exactly what those projects will be, although he could if he wanted to. Opponents of Referendum A also are asking the governor how communities would be compensated for the impacts such water storage projects would have. The governor isn’t answering that question either.

About a dozen Western Slope stakeholders and representatives have stated their strong opposition to Referendum A. Even Republican congressman Scott McInnis has flown in the face of his party to openly reject the measure. These days, if a high-ranking Republican congressman goes against a Republican governor, it’s a good sign something’s seriously amiss.

The groups and individuals in opposition to Referendum A have a variety of reasons for asking us to vote against the measure. The reasons run the gamut, from vague legislation to the fact that it’s unacceptable that the Front Range would rather take our water than to enact measures to conserve their own.

I share these concerns, and in addition, I simply don’t trust Referendum A or its proponents because clearly the voters of this state are not being given the whole story.

– Edward Stern,

via e-mail

Questioning water conservation

To the Editor,

I have three questions regarding water in Colorado: First, what is the goal of water conservation in Colorado? Secondly, is there a plan, a vision or any discussion and cooperation within Colorado for a solution to water shortages? Thirdly, if there is a water shortage, or even a problem, or an enemy, what or who is it?

1) Is the goal of water conservation and water distribution in Colorado to have unending lawns and landscaping throughout suburbia, with green golf courses, highway median strips, lawns in front of government buildings and schools? Should we be allowing farmers to continue to push water through their ditches, even when they don’t need it, in often outdated and inefficient irrigation systems? Our pristine vision of Colorado, now a little tainted, is of singing streams and rivers, clean water, the sounds of nature and abundant wildlife. There is no place in these United States that can live off natural beauty alone, but Colorado comes pretty close. But the vision, the vision, where do we go?

Our water sources are puny compared to, say, Washington state with it glaciers, Kauai with its rainy canyons or Maine with its rivers and lakes.Yet Coloradoans use more water per person than any of these places. Ours is, overall, a semi-arid climate, and we ought to learn to live within it. As we are so often reminded, it is vitally important that we “live within our financial means.” This bit of wisdom seems basic to our essentially pragmatic, puritanical and highly economized society. Are we living within our “water means”? So what is the goal of conservation in Colorado? I do not believe we have one, but we should start searching for it.

2) When towns and cities implement water conservation at different times, then lift watering restrictions at different times, this shows an utter lack of cooperation, mutual concern and vision. It shows greed, wastefulness and an “every-man-for-himself” attitude. Most reservoirs in the state are not full, yet many communities have eased up on watering restrictions. How sincere are we about ending the drought?

Though several parts of the state have had impressive precipitation lately, and a good deal of voluntary conservation has occurred, our reservoir levels suggest that conservation of water should become a permanent feature of living in Colorado. Too many in the media seem to be congratulating Coloradoans by comparing this year’s reservoir levels with last year’s pathetically low water. This comparison is not much to brag about. Last summer’s slow response to the initiation of water conservation exposes a certain lack of expertise among our experts. Our leaders are not leading. Alas, we are still in a drought. Normal precipitation, or even above-average precipitation along with continued growth, will ultimately result in a sustained water deficit.

Our actual repugnance is not reserved just for the development of in-state jealousies and animosities against people but is especially sharp against the wildlife, people and economies of neighboring states. For example, the South Platte River in Nebraska, which is so depleted here in Colorado, can barely support a fraction of the sandhill cranes it once did. We lecture Third World Mexico to plant crops to feed itself, yet two rivers that start here and ultimately flow to Mexico, the Rio Grande and the Colorado, are horribly wasted right here.

Colorado’s geographical situation is such that the majority of our rivers begin high in our mountains, flow through our valleys and across the plains. Then they leave our state for surrounding states, which invariably have a lower elevation. These are: Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming. States beyond these immediate neighbors and also heavily affected by how Colorado uses water are California, Nevada and Texas, plus Mexico. Although these places also waste water, is it wise of Colorado to simply ignore the legitimate needs of so many others? In this connection, the proposal and concept of “The Big Straw,” a reverse-flow pipeline on the Colorado River at the Utah line, is certainly the most selfish and ungodly proposal in America today, sure to cause Colorado a good artillery pummeling from a justified alliance of downstream states!

Evidently, as far as water goes, we have a “free for all” in Colorado. Good politicians would insist upon slow and wise growth, coupled with an acceptance of our very small supply of water.

3) So who is to blame for our water problems as of late? All of us. We often worry about foreign terrorists coming here and doing dirty deeds that will harm us. My advice to them is to stay at home and relax, as we are doing a fine job of destroying our water supply ourselves. Yes, watering a lawn is terrorism; just ask a fish. Recently it was said to me, “We need as many new dams as possible, and bigger ones, and we need them as soon as possible.” The weak point of this suggestion is that we already have a huge number of dams, diversion ditches, trans-basin tunnels, water pacts and so forth, and they are managed abysmally. How would more of the same improve our situation? Perhaps we have never had a water shortage, even during the worst of last summer’s drought; we simply have not been living within our watery means.

A water ethic is needed in Colorado. No matter how rich a person or business or city is, or how badly they want water for nonessentials, they must realize that it is morally wrong for them to have it, and they will not have it. We must keep water in the streams and rivers, lakes and wetlands. The health of nature depends on it, and our own health is never really better than nature’s.

– Thomas R. Gagnon, via e-mail

Get more power from the sun

To the community

The Million Solar Roofs Initiative (MSRI) is an initiative to install solar energy systems on 1 million U.S. buildings by 2010. The initiative includes two types of solar technology: solar electric systems (or photovoltaics) that produce electricity from sunlight, and solar thermal systems that produce heat for domestic hot water, space heating or swimming pools.

If you heat or get electricity from the sun, you can be counted in this initiative. Contact Carol Tombari, Energy and Environmental Applications Office, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, (303) 275-3821 or caroltombari@nrel.gov.

– Robert Warren, via e-mail





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