Community Ag Alliance: Water — a gift from God
Whatever your belief, whatever your faith, we all agree the Yampa Valley has been blessed this week with snow, snow and more snow. As we celebrate Christmas, I can’t help but feel this has been a gift from God to all of us.
The economic gift is recognized immediately by our local businesses, restaurants and resorts. Visitors and locals are raving about the quality and quantity of recreational opportunities. Snowplow drivers are making the rounds rejoicing in the work, remembering a few Christmas seasons when their plows sat idle.
Kids are out of school and have abundant, exciting places to spend their time. We see them on skis, snowboards, sleds and even pieces of cardboard. Really, is there a better present than being outside playing in the snow?
Long-term, this snow and the moisture it brings is a gift from Heaven. It means water that will melt into our soil and flow into our rivers next spring and translates into a great chance of not facing a drought conditions next summer and fall. Our local ranchers and farmers will have enough irrigation and stock water to raise crops and livestock, which is good for local, regional, national and international food reserves. Tubers, fisherman and kayakers are already thinking of summer fun in the water.
Those of us lucky enough to live in this valley recognize the value of snow. Some embrace it, and some grumble, but we all know it is important. Ten important rivers originate in our state, and these rivers eventually cross Colorado’s state lines. Due to interstate and international compact treaties, Colorado will divert 10 million acre-feet for use in 18 other states and Mexico.
According to the recently released Colorado Water Plan, Colorado’s average precipitation yields 14 million acre-feet of water each year. Between 70 and 80 percent of this is on the Western Slope. Twenty-four tunnels and ditches transport 500,000 acre feet from the Western Slope to the Front Range. Colorado’s population has grown from one million in 1930 to more than five million and is projected to nearly double by 2050.
The snow falling here is already appropriated for agricultural, industrial, municipal, recreational and environmental purposes. Everyone has an interest in how much accumulates, how big the storms are and how long winter lasts. We don’t go as far as counting our blessing one flake at a time, but we recognize each flake is important to the future.
The Colorado Water Plan is a comprehensive document to help guide us through the tribulations of meeting our water needs. It encourages us to work collaboratively to develop and meet attainable goals to reduce the supply-demand gap which will become a part of our lives.
We will be called to be wise stewards of our water resources by thinking differently, acting differently and investing differently. The plan can be reviewed online by accessing the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s website.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow –- and enjoy God’s gift.
Marsha Daughenbaugh is executive director of Community Agriculture Alliance and a lifelong resident of the Lower Elk River Valley.
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