Monday, January 7, 2008

A little thing like Water

I grew up (mostly) in Michigan. This is not a state where one worries about water. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes. And it rains and snows a lot. When it doesn't rain and snow, there's still plenty of humidity in the air. Water is not a problem.

Then I moved to Colorado. My water bill tripled. And no, that had nothing to do with the farm. That was just showering, washing clothes and dishes - the normal stuff. My first summer here was a drought in Colorado. Wheat farmers in the eastern plains were losing their shirts due to burnt crops. Larry's Grandfather owns property in Sterling where his land still grows wheat. It was a bad year.

I have since found out that the water on my little farm - the municipal water for my town comes from a very strange place. It is piped in from the WESTERN SLOPES of the Rockies. That's right folks, for me to drink water at home, it has to be piped UNDERNEATH the Rocky Mountains into reservoirs along the Front Range before it gets to my house. If we ever want to irrigate our 6 acres, we will need to buy a share of water, and that cost is in the 5 digits.

When I got into an argument while hiking, with a couple I met from North Carolina about the fact that it is illegal to save water in rain barrels in Colorado, they thought that was just stupid. Of course, they are from North Carolina. They don't realize that out here, in the High Desert - states like Nevada and Arizona and Southern California are supporting more people than there really is a water supply for. Colorado and the Eastern Plains DEPEND on snow packs from the mountains to melt and provide water to the eastern edges of the state to support farming. And as our rivers, the Great Colorado River, as it runs south - how much water do you think is left for Mexico?

As I watch more and more cookie cutter neighborhoods get plastered up along I-25 in Colorado.. I think 2 things: That was nice farm land, what a shame, and; where is the water coming from to water their lawns and cover their showers? Where is it coming from? They are trying to pass a law to make a reservoir off the ONLY river in Northern Colorado that is protected as a wildlife refuge - the Poudre River. For what? For another glorified trailer park, like the awful KB Homes neighborhood Larry and I rented in?

I heard a saying this morning on the radio that can't be more true in Colorado - something as a Michigander I once took for granted. "Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over." And it's no joke here... You have to buy your water here. Farmers pay a lot of money for the water they irrigate their fields with. But people keep building more houses... and when they divert water from the land - they are taking away from farm land. As a burgeoning farmer, myself... I hope there is still a share of water to buy from our reservoir when the time comes for us to irrigate.