Summit Daily letters: The looming water crisis a threat to our way of life
August 21, 2018
The looming water crisis
After reading "Water, Water, Everywhere: The Great Western Fallacy" in August, several members of the Summit County Page Peakers Book Club gathered for a discussion led by Genia Gallagher, Breckenridge resident and author of the book. Gallagher's intensive research clearly indicates that we face a water crisis, especially in the Western and Southwestern United States.
The 1922 Colorado River Compact was adopted when water flowed at an all-time high, allowing the vast deserts of Arizona, Nevada and California to grow lush and green. At that time agriculture was the main consumer of water and the population of the West was minimal. Over the past century, there have been many overlapping and conflicting federal and state agreements and regulations, all concerned with developing rights and apportioning water. Lawyers procured, perfected and protected water rights for their clients, though it was plain to all involved that with exploding consumption the Colorado River was over-allocated. Managing demand through conservation, intelligent land use and controlled growth was, at best, an after-thought.
Today the West is parched. The Colorado River Basin has been in drought since 2000, with 60 percent of Colorado in severe drought. Low snowpack, La Nina fizzling out, higher temperatures, evaporation, over-allocation, overuse and climate change have caused the water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell to drop to levels that will soon require a reduction in deliveries to several Lower Basin states. Lake Mead has only to fall two more feet for this to happen. Water managers have known for years that at some point the over-allocated Colorado River will no longer be able to supply water to seven states, Mexico, West Slope farmers or the fast-growing municipalities on the Front Range.
Water itself costs us next to nothing; we pay mainly for treatment and service. Perhaps if we paid more for it we might treat this essential need with the respect it deserves. We live in arid to desert conditions, yet we fill our pools, water our lawns and golf courses, draw down aquifers and continue to use highly inefficient flood water irrigation. We subsidize and grow water intensive crops, support immense new development and retain agreements and laws enacted over a hundred years ago that do not reflect our current or future hydrological realities.
Human beings cannot survive without water. We face a crisis. Not down the road. NOW. After many years of severe to extreme drought, the Colorado River cannot and will not continue to supply enough water for our ever-increasing demands. Legislators, water managers and consumers must begin to understand and address the full scope of this increasingly urgent issue and stop merely reacting to drought with temporary restrictions. Otherwise we face the sad prospect that our children and grandchildren will no longer enjoy a stream of crystal clear water at the turn of a faucet.
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Continue to support VSO
I have seen ads in the Summit Daily recently featuring pleas from our longstanding homegrown orthopedic group, Vail Summit Orthopedics (VSO). They are seeking loyalty from Summit County residents and others who come for recreation resulting in trauma on the ski slopes or hiking trails. The ads indicate that in the fall they will be excluded from emergency call rotation at our local hospital and will be replaced by a new group of uncertain experience.
For three decades, VSO orthopedists and related professionals have committed themselves to our community, providing excellent care for the most seriously injured. In the past 13 years, they have been instrumental in establishing our local hospital as a national leader in the treatment of orthopedic trauma, in a joint venture with the hospital they have established Peak One, our local ambulatory surgery center, they have conducted ground breaking research of international significance, and they have consistently supported our community in many ways. In particular, I'd like to point out how extensively they have volunteered to address the specialty care needs for patients of the Summit Community Care Clinic, for which they received The Summit Foundation annual award for community collaboration a few years ago.
The hospital's contract with a new orthopedic group presents many unknowns. We can withhold judgment until the lifts start churning on the slopes, trusting that the hospital has taken into consideration the best interests of the patients they serve. We do know, however, that we may witness the loss of one of our county's most valuable medical resources, VSO's exemplary quality and steadfast commitment to Summit County.
I encourage our residents and visitors to continue turning to VSO for all orthopedic needs.
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