I generally try not to be political in this column. However, two of my favorite senators went rafting together last week and I think it is worth noting. Mitt Romney (Utah, Republican) and Michael Bennet (Colorado, Democrat) took an unusual crew down the Colorado River. They packed 2 rafts with government officials, water and environment experts, ranchers and farmers, business and industry. Of course, due to the limited capacity, each guest represented a different area. There is nothing quite like a trip down the river to allow for focused interaction without fear of interruption as they discuss the water shortage in the Western United States and the causes of this plight. .
While the river generally flows at a rapid rate of 7,200 cubic feet per second, the flow was only 2,700 (37½% of standard), adding an hour and a half to the (normally) 4 hour journey, since Hittle Bottom Campground (just west of Fruta, CO) at Rocky Rapid Campground (just northeast of Moab, UT), giving participants ample opportunity to observe the results of the drought.
The Colorado River Compact of 1922 (AZ, CA, CO, NV, UT, WY) governs the flow (subject to abundant water) and who benefits (in percentage). Farmers and pastoralists use 87% of the water. However, as the level of the river drops, 87% of the water is greatly reduced. In some areas the normal high water mark was well above the head of the rafters. Farm businesses will likely have to remove some of their land from production, reducing not only their income, but also the food supply of the United States (and thus increasing the price of food according to supply and demand). . My opinion: City dwellers will have to admit that there isn’t enough water to grow water-hungry Bluegrass lawns. Drinking water and food production should be given priority when water disappears.
Anyone who has boiled water knows that heat causes water to evaporate. Global warming has caused a western drought. Yes, it has happened before, but this drought is so severe that it contributes to forest fires that destroy everything in their path. And the heat patterns affecting the climate are causing floods, hurricanes and mudslides in various parts of the world. I don’t have the money to invest in a rocket. I wish someone would do something to save planet Earth now.
Senator Romney and Senator Bennet said Washington DC should follow the traditional Western approach of collaboration to address common challenges. Drought affects everyone’s food supply. The fires are not confined to California and each year they appear further east.
On a related topic, the students again organized an outing to draw attention to climate change and the need for climate action (local, state and national). Our young people, worried about the world they will inherit, have now discovered (thanks to Greta Thunberg) that they can influence others, even if they are not of voting age. (Here in the Estes Valley, we encourage our children, ages 5 to 17, to practice voting in real elections and passing their thoughts on to officials.) Students on the steps of the capital of the ‘Utah chanted “Don’t let our planet die. Climate change is not a lie. Perhaps their efforts will help Senator Bennet and Senator Romney in their efforts to do something about it.
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