Water 2012: There is Water, Water Everywhere...

Water has long been considered a perpetual resource. Because it is part of a naturally renewable cycle it is considered ongoing.

That seems to be a strange statement in the middle of a dry year and coming off of a period of extended drought, but let’s look at it differently. Now, look at it in terms of a geologic time scale over eons, not in terms of lifetimes. When thought about that way all the water that is here now is all that has ever been here or ever will be here.

San Luis Valley residents live in a closed system. The key is that this water availability is part of the water cycle.

The water cycle is an important part of how all exist; everyone learned that little fact in fourth grade. The problem today is that many have forgotten it.

So let’s have a quick refresher course. Remember that water is needed to fall in the form of precipitation, and then it does one of a few things. It is stored in the form of snow or ice, infiltrates to groundwater, runs-off to streams lakes and rivers or is used by plants.

Next, as the plot continues - it evaporates from the surface or transpires through plants and then condenses in the atmosphere and starts all over again.

The key is the process recharge. When water from the surface infiltrates the ground it recharges ground water supplies. With adequate precipitation rivers, streams and aquifers are recharged allowing surface areas to stay hydrated. Even the atmosphere stays hydrated. The system stays full.

But this is in a perfect world without large cities, paved streets, concrete parking lots, malls, humans and such progress. It is in this world, recharge gets inhibited, because water doesn’t always go in, but instead it gets used up or runs overland and suddenly picks up a lot of other substances before going into streams and rivers.

Look closely at water supplies and humans. Is human use of water sustainable?

Of all the water on Earth only 3 percent is fresh and able to be consumed by plants, animals, crops, and humans. Of that 3 percent, approximately 68 percent is tied up in glaciers, 30 percent is held up as ground water storage, while 2 percent remains as surface water, fresh water lakes, rivers, streams, and swamps.

That is an amazingly small amount for all humans, and non-saltwater animals and plants. Look at fresh water supplies as a non-renewable resource that humans may be over using. Not that anyone is to blame, humans are just humans, so with that in mind, how and what are the priorities, by order of the real needs here in Colorado?

If it is up to Colorado’s farmers and ranchers water resources will be preserved. Simply by the act of placing water on crops, where excess goes into recharge, they are securing a valuable part of Colorado’s water future. Americans spend only .07 cents of every dollar on food and not .80 as in Kuwait and have fresh water to drink, wash in and use because of the agricultural economy.

Judy Lopez is the director of the Rio Grande Watershed Conservation & Education Initiative, 550 Worth Street (PO Box 424), Center Colorado 81125; Office 754-3400; Fax 754 3109; Cell 580-5300

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