WATER - A MAJOR ISSUE FOR THE 21st CENTURY
The biggest issue in Utah for the next thirty or forty years is likely to be water. Water laws are obsolete. We use too much water to grow alfalfa. Water systems are old and broken. We waste almost as much water as we use. Discussions about water should include the following concepts:
First, we should stop saying we live in a desert. We do not live in a desert. Most Utahns live in high mountain valleys that happen to be near deserts. The state may receive only five inches of annual rainfall in its desert areas, but we receive as much as fifty inches of water in the mountains -- more than New Orleans, for example. Even in Salt Lake City, our annual rainfall exceeds that of San Diego.
Second, our problem is not a lack of water, but a lack of political will needed to gather, store, and distribute water. Our political leaders should be telling us not about conserving water but about plans to improve water systems. Visionaries brought us the Central Water Project and other developments. We need the same kind of vision with regard to new plans for capturing, storing, and distributing water. Giant reservoirs may no longer be acceptable, but that doesn't mean we can't improve existing reservoirs, develop new capture/storage methods, and greatly improve distribution systems.
Third, we waste millions and millions of gallons of water that could easily be used for farm irrigation, golf courses, and non-culinary purposes. Treated wastewater can can be made as safe as we want it to be for relatively little cost. with a little investment, treated wastewater can be used as a secondary water system for large-scale watering. Already, some areas of the state use a second water distribution system for watering lawns and so on; i.e., Davis County. Political leaders should be promoting ways to use water two or three times instead of just once.
Fourth, water conservation is a good thing, but over the long term, trees, bushes, and green grass are even better. Every tree we lose for lack of water, every bush we eliminate, and every green blade of grass we sacrifice increases pollution and contributes to global warming. Only green leaves can produce the oxygen we must have to survive. And only green leaves can filter the dirty air we generate and turn harmful carbon dioxide into beneficial molecules. The end result of so-called "xeriscaping" may may be lower water consumption but higher air pollution. The more people you have, the more trees you need.
Fifth, when government increases water rates thinking it will reduce water consumption, the negative side effects outweigh the benefits. Higher water rates punish the poor and reward the rich. If you earn $50,000 a year even the highest rates affect only a small portion of your budget. But if you earn $30,000 a year, landscape watering becomes one of those luxuries you can do without. That means the living environment for the poor deteriorates, while the living environment for the rich improves. Deteriorating landscapes in low-income communities help add to social unrest and crime.
Sam Granato approves this message