Water, water everywhere?
The water-holics might not be able to contain themselves.
Boulder already relaxed outdoor water restrictions. At its May 21 board meeting, Denver Water might consider doing the same – or might choose to at least rid itself of a surcharge for big users, according to the Rocky Mountain News.
The changes are the response to a good snow year and continuing spring precipitation, both of which appear to have staved off threats of continued drought conditions.
Nevertheless, there is still a deficit of water in the reservoir system, and although the optimists foresee water, water everywhere in their crystal balls, the truth is, Mother Nature has a way of changing her mind.
Still, the Front Range folks are more than a little giddy with predictions reservoirs might fill by mid-summer. We caution, however, that they might not.
This time last year, Eastern Slope water users were slow to enact water restrictions, thinking the spring and summer would be almost normal after a fourth consecutive low-snow year.
At the same time, the first wildfires were blazing, and locals were mountain biking trails that should have still been snow-covered at the time.
By early June, the Hayman fire, which would become the biggest wildfire in Colorado history, made headlines around the nation, and enough fires were raging across the state that Gov. Bill Owens made his highly controversial “all of Colorado is burning” statement.
Meanwhile, officials reported they were concerned the state would burn through all its firefighting funds before reaching the halfway mark of the wildfire season.
A year later, that news seems but a distant memory as the news media reports record snowfalls and late-season storms that dump enough heavy, wet snow to actually keep snowriders from reaching the High Country slopes and leave thousands of others on the Front Range without power.
How quickly we forget.
As anybody who’s lived in Colorado a while knows, ugly, wet Aprils and Mays can turn into dry, dusty Julys and Augusts. Fire officials have already cautioned that a wet spring can make way for lush, green vegetation that gives the illusion the drought is over. But without continued precipitation, those plants can dry up and will be nothing more than fodder for more fires.
Given recent history, it’s unconscionable that Boulder and, possibly, Denver Water would back off the conservation ethic. The real root of the water problem is a “rainforest landscape” mindset in a climate that is more like High Plains desert.
On top of that, the Denver metro area insists on building subdivisions now and worrying about water later. That is why the state is funding a $500,000 recognizance study of the Big Straw project, a boondoggle that would pump Colorado River water from near the Utah border back to the Front Range.
Ultimately, the decision to relax water restrictions now is wishful thinking at best but could prove irresponsible and devastating at worst. By the time we know how much water we have, imposing water restrictions could be a case of too little, too late.
Just ask the residents of the town of Buelah in south central Colorado. By the time they realized water was in short supply last summer, they’d already run out.
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