High Desert Hoofbeats
Rational dialogue needed...
by Sena Taylor Hauer
Feb 06, 2014 | 1273 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The prairie dogs on the Cisco desert saw their shadows Sunday and sure enough, Monday morning dawned with snow, heralding six more weeks of winter. We could use more winter for the sake of our water supply in the coming year but I hope it won’t be like the last six weeks: dry but cold, cold, cold.

I’m trying to remember when we haven’t worried about our water supply, and it seems to have been decades or more. If it’s true that there have been more wars fought in the West over water than over any other commodity, then it’s a theme our pioneer state builders fretted over too, when there wasn’t even global warming to give them nightmares. Our fickle water supply has been right up there with issues such as politics, personal vanity and premarital sex for heaven knows how long. It’s a given.

But that doesn’t discount the fact that our water quantity and quality is becoming more precious. It underscores it. There is a finite supply of water on our globe, but an ever-growing mass of people who need it to survive, under warmer conditions.

In the Moab Valley there are efforts afoot to rally support for more thorough monitoring and allocation of our water sources. Former Grand County Council member Chris Baird is the executive director of the Canyonlands Watershed Council, a five-year-old group that is watchdogging local water use in the face of global and local climate change. This organization is calling into question proposals of the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency, which for years has been a somewhat quiet but powerful arm of local government. Members of the GWSSA board, of which Baird has been a member, would argue that their chief role is to create rational water policy. One’s definition of “rational” is the rubbing point, as I believe current members of the GWSSA board would consider their thinking as being rational.

GWSSA last year floated an idea to divert more water from Mill Creek into Ken’s Lake during the winter, in an effort to stockpile enough water to meet the historic irrigation requirements in our community. Many Spanish Valley farmers have been operating with half or less of their customary supplies the last two years. While few, if any, like to see green fields turn brown and farmers lose livelihoods to dead crops, at stake is the health of Mill Creek, and so on and so forth as the wet stuff trickles down the line. A third big player at the table is the Bureau of Land Management, which has the final say in whether more water can be taken out of Mill Creek to satisfy the 150 or so users.

The rains of September seemed to put a damper on diversion talks. Any change will be predicated on years of studies that would seek to determine more accurate supply estimates and allow conjecture on the health impacts of decreasing creek flows during winter. It seems like an idea worth exploring, akin to power plants storing energy at night to use during peak times in the day. But it’s probably not all that simple. While GWSSA studies the supply, others will be studying the impacts, in true historic divisiveness.

My hope is that battle lines can be softened with public dialogue that works toward solutions. The BLM has a pivotal task at playing the middleman. There’s no reason that we as a community can’t discuss the sensitivities and work on a plan that is beneficial to man and land. It’s what we must do, whether or not there are six more weeks of winter.

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