Guest commentary: Water and Colorado

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Ask anyone who has attempted to describe the State of Colorado to do so in
one word, and, more often than not, the reply is: Complex.

Ask the same ambitious individuals for one word that provides unity to the
complexity of the Centennial State, and the response, especially from
long-time residents, is: Aridity.

Despite snow that often remains atop the highest peaks throughout the
summer months, and tropical environs around hot springs, Colorado, for all
its beauty, is arid. In some parts of the state things are relatively
better because the area is semi-arid – circumstances made more palatable
with the description “high desert.”

The nature of Colorado’s overall environment is an undeniable fact and
efforts to change it dating to at least 1861, are, at best, mixed in their

As spring arrives there comes talk of drought. With the talk of drought
there are discussions on how to respond to it: More water storage, more
dams, restrictions on water usage and higher rates for consumption.

While proposals such as storage and restrictions on usage merit
consideration equal consideration must be given to how we live on the
land, and how we treat the land by how we use it through what we plant.

It is a discussion not many seem ready and willing to have, given all the
landscaping that includes lawns requiring almost constant watering, along
with trees, shrubs, bushes and flowers that wilt and fade at the
slightest indication of dehydration because they are not native or
appropriate to Colorado’s overall environment.

In this seemingly taboo discussion there is also the matter of when
watering should or should not be done. It is likely every person in the
state has, in the heat of the day, driven by a business or government
office that features landscape, and cannot help but become infuriated at
the sight of water being wasted due to evaporation and hot concrete or
asphalt being wet unnecessarily.

Such irresponsibility merits outrage, but no one seems willing to take
action to either discourage or stop the practice entirely — leading to the
most ugly of truths regarding Colorado: Until everyone in the state
accepts the reality of the situation — Colorado is arid, Colorado is a
desert landscape — and everyone agrees to act responsibility, discussions
of drought, solutions, and possible outcomes are exercises in futility.

Jim Hess