2012 drought merely Mother Nature’s opening salvo

You might think that watering restrictions would encourage people to conserve water. I live on the west end of the Redlands, where our irrigation water provider has limited its delivery of water to three days a week, because of low flows in the Gunnison River.

After observing my neighborhood through the last two cycles of watering days, the restrictions appear to have the opposite effect.

People are hoarding water. I’ve seen households water excessively for those three days in anticipation of having the water shut off again. By “excessively,” I mean the water is on for hours at a time, with water running down the street and flooding the pavement.

No matter how much these water hogs drench the asphalt, nothing is going to grow.

Benjamin Franklin got it right when he said, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

This part of human nature isn’t new. Most people don’t recognize the value of a resource until it’s scarce. It’s not like we’re hauling muddy water from a well to survive, treasuring every drop.

The luxury of turning on the faucet and having cool, clear water spew forth effortlessly (most of the time) has spoiled us. We take daily showers, change our clothes after wearing them once, and don’t rush to fix household leaks.

Back in the 1880s, settlers came to this valley between two rivers, and they dug canals to divert those waters for their homes and farms. At the time, they settled a land resembling the scrubby desert north of Interstate 70. That’s what this valley looks like when it receives only the water that falls from the sky (8–9 inches per year on average).

Now we have upstream reservoirs to ensure against drought, but that ensurance only extends so far. Water managers already are looking ahead with trepidation at the next water year as they try to survive this summer.

If the high country doesn’t get much snow, and reservoirs don’t fill next year, we’re really in for it.

Summer 2012 is here to teach us a lesson. It’s a matter of changing our thinking and habits, and learning to use water wisely. I had a neighbor confess to me that he didn’t even think of saving the water he drained from his hot tub for watering his lawn. He dumped it down the gutter. And this was after the watering restrictions started. I think of that hot tub as I slosh water on my garden vegetables with a bucket.

Yes, our lawns might die. It is hoped we can keep our trees and shrubs alive, since they’re more expensive and time-consuming to replace. Grass is easy to replace (or not, if you decide to embrace the desert).

You won’t see me out there, hand-watering the crunchy spots of grass between watering days. I will wear my browning lawn like a badge of honor, showing that I conserve water and that I understand we live in a desert. It’s time for more people to learn that lesson.

For drought information and water-saving ideas, check out http://www.thedripwebsite.com or http://www.ext.colostate.edu/drought/

Erin McIntyre is a writer, gardener and Grand Valley native in the midst of starting her own gourmet pickle company, which you can check out at yumpickles.com. Email her at westlifegjgmail.com.


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