Will the urban need be the rural drain?
A recent report from the National Research Council says that sometime in the future agricultural water in the west will probably go the way of the cities that are growing downstream from the Colorado Plateau.
The council which is a division of the National Academy of Science, looked at water supplies and the trend of a warming southwest, and reported that the trade off, though controversial, will basically have to happen if the west's cities are going to continue to grow.
Whether you believe in the theories about global warming and its causes, the fact is the temperature of the earth is rising and in the American southwest, a warmer climate than is already present will bring on less snow in the mountains and more reliance on water from upstream than ever.
This idea of the water being needed for urban growth, and the fact that some see the agricultural water we have as expendable to big city interests is disturbing. And of course those jealous metropolitan eyes on water we have in our area, is not that much different than the project that Las Vegas is proposing to drain water from the aquifer in the Utah west desert.
The ownership of water in the west is more important than the land, or so I have heard it voiced many times. And it seems very true. How many people do you know that own land somewhere in this or surrounding states that want to do something with it, but have no water to even wet their whistle on it?
But water isn't truly owned by any individual, even if they have paid for and own shares, a lake, a stream or in some cases even a rain barrel full of water from their roof. Time and time again water has been proven to be the property of the state in which one resides. Water is one of the main "state's rights" issues that still exists in the country. One civil war was fought over states rights, and the issues that are being debated on water in the west could (probably will) create if nothing else civil unrest in the court systems.
Water is used everywhere for much more than just growing crops and giving people something to drink. Water is the main ingredient needed in many manufacturing operations, and in some types of energy refinement. Without a supply, an area such as ours is restricted in growth.
Our government is set up to serve the good of the many, but to also protect the few in the minority. As cities continue to grow and population in many rural areas along the upper Colorado Basin either remain stagnant or decline in residents, it will be tempting to solve problems create elsewhere by sending more water downstream. But that is certainly not the legacy we want to leave.
There was a time when those who controlled the head waters in this country controlled almost everything. Laws and compacts have changed that, but we also need to be sure that just because the upper basin states were trying to be fair, we shouldn't give away the store.
Big cities have made their own bed by adding growth that they cannot serve with their infrastructure. They have made those decisions, often based on greed to collect more tax base.
They should have to live with their decisions and not try to take away what others have to feed those choices.