Guest Column: Our Water is Precious ... Down to the Very Last Drop

We dwellers of the desert love the clear limitless vistas, and the sweet dry air of our chosen homeland. We revel in thinking that we don’t have hurricanes or tornadoes or rivers topping their banks and destroying the fruits of our labor. Yet, even though we love the aridity, we must, as a literal matter of life and death, have water in order to exist.

Those of us who are most comfortable in the desert have no problem being conservative and frugal in our use of this precious resource. We raise our children to live their lives in much the same fashion, and they do the same.

We have many good, kindhearted and thoughtful people who have come here from places where water is everywhere and lush greenery is the norm. They come to this beautiful arid place and after a short time, they begin to miss and long for at least a little bit of “back home.” They plant a couple of shrubs that look so very good that they need just a few more bits of green to make things look something like the old homestead.

Then they begin to really miss home because they can see their token five- or six-shrub landscape reminds them so strongly of home. Their yearning becomes overpowering, and they call in the professional landscaper and show them a photo of “back home” and demand that the new yard look just like the photo – all lush, soft and inviting greenery.

Now they have their little piece of heaven that looks just like Ohio or Tennessee, their water bill skyrockets, and they begin to wonder what happened? These good folks had no ulterior motive in wanting and needing that greenery, but they and the many thousands of other folks just like them highlight one of the facets of water overuse in our beautiful arid Southwest.

They are conditioned to “green” and to having unquestioned, limitless supplies of water available for anyone’s and everyone’s lawn, garden, shade trees or vegetable garden.

They are not evil. They just don’t realize just how precious and scarce our water supply really is. But those good souls and the hundreds of thousands just like them are slowly drying up what water we do have.

Yes, I know, there are many people who will scoff at my comments saying “there is lots of water down there.”

The law says that developers must prove a 100-year minimum water supply beneath a planned development before sales can be consummated. The big problem is that no one, repeat NO ONE, can really prove how much water remains in the aquifers beneath us. Studies are done and claims are made, but the truth is still an unknown.

There is, however, one ironclad water truth that no one seems to want to look in the face: This did not get to be a desert by being rained on. We are pumping far more water out of the ground than what is percolating into it.

Here in the Hualapai Valley and the Sacramento Valley, there is zero, none, zilch surface water recharge of our underground aquifers. There are no streams, creeks or rivers contributing any water to our water supply.

We are, in effect, mining an irreplaceable resource. That is fossil water beneath us, and it is a treasure we cannot replace. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

About the only thing we can do to put off the inevitable is to engage in some real conservation – not buzzwords, not political platitudes – but some real life and death dedication to the cause.

This is not frivolous hyperbole. We are truly robbing our grandchildren of their birthright by removing what was to have been their water. Our short sighted overuse and lack of any real planning is quite likely to result in a horrible outcome.

Just imagine, if you will, Kingman and Golden Valley and many other similar places looking like a scene out of a horror movie with swirls of dust and tumble weeds blowing down empty streets fronted by abandoned storefronts. The only visible signs of life are the occasional flicker of a lizard dashing from shade to shade, and the ever-present turkey vulture circling above in the forlorn hope of finding a meal.

All the pretty green shrubbery, and the delighted laughter of children playing on inviting green lawns … all gone into the dim past. All signs of commerce and business vitality … gone as well.

That hideous scenario is what I see looming in our future if we do not work up the political will to change current law to protect our grandchildren’s right and expectation that a simple glass of clear sweet drinking water will be there for them.

We need to abandon our casual view that today is ours and to hell with tomorrow. Contact your city councilmembers, your county supervisor and your state representatives and write letters and make telephone calls.

I’ll grant that this is a mining state, but do we really want to mine the water to the very last drop?