Shared sacrifice needed in dangerous drought

As this was being written Friday afternoon, the Pine Ridge Fire near De Beque had torched more than 12,000 acres of mostly sagebrush and juniper country. Interstate 70 had been temporarily closed Thursday night and Friday as the fire spread into De Beque Canyon, and some families had been advised to prepare for evacuation.

All this was a result of the intense drought that has struck Colorado this year, creating far more destructive fires on the Front Range but threatening virtually all of the state.

In response to those blazes, Coloradans have responded with their usual generosity — establishing disaster-relief funds, setting up facilities where evacuees can find shelter, providing meals and other assistance to firefighters, even offering temporary shelters for pets, horses and other animals that, like their owners, are forced from their homes by fire.

Shared sacrifices and assistance to others are typical Western Slope responses to such disasters. And that makes the news from earlier last week about water usage in the Grand Valley even more disappointing.

Instead of cutting back on their water use as requested, a great many people in the valley have actually been increasing how much water they consume to keep their lawns green, irrigate crops and more.

Irrigation companies and domestic water suppliers have reported increase water use, despite calls to cut back.

A spokesman for the Ute Water Conservancy District told The Daily Sentinel’s Matthew Berger that “some residential customers are using three times the amount of water” they were last month, or even last year at this time.

Officials with Redlands Water and Power Co. said a problem that originally had to do with pump capacity — and initially led the company to ask customers to go to a rotating-days irrigation system — has now become a water-supply issue because many customers are actually using more water, not less.

Nobody wants to see their lawn brown and wilted, garden dying or crops failing. But it’s also possible to keep these plants alive and healthy while using somewhat less water. Doubling or tripling water usage in the midst of a severe drought simply doesn’t make sense. And it certainly doesn’t fit with the spirit of shared sacrifice and generosity that has marked so much of this community’s and this state’s response to the wildfires.

We sincerely hope the Pine Ridge Fire will be contained soon, without significant losses or injury. And we hope people in the valley will become more careful in their use of our limited water supplies.

Those wishing to donate money or materials in response to the Pine Ridge Fire, or to fires around the state, may call 211 or 244-8200 for more information. Or they may visit http://www.HelpColoradoNow.org.

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