Anne Boswell, Colorado News Your Way
(Rocky Ford, CO) -- You don't have to travel far in Southeast Colorado to hear someone talking about water.
(Greg Walcher, photo by Anne Boswell)
Thursday night at the Grand Theater in Rocky Ford, Author, Advisor and Expert in Water Services, Greg Walcher told a crowd that Colorado is going to have to get serious about continuing the conversation.
"Protecting Colorado water requires eternal vigilance and it has to start all over again with every single generation of Coloradoans because there are too many people who don't understand the value of it, the importance of it and the threat to it."
Walcher continued that it's been his experience that complacency sets in because every generation thinks there's nothing new in the fight for water. He said that's simply not the case, there is always something new and the state will need to stay up on new threats continually.
Walcher showed an example of the disconnect with water with the younger generation by explaining he often goes to schools to talk about water. He said the younger kids were always quick to answer they knew where water came from because they had learned about the cycle of water with evaporation, clouds and rain. Walcher then went on to ask about how the water makes it into the facet, he said there were fewer confident hands shooting up to answer but one student stated he knew there were pipes underground. However, when the next question was posed, how does the water enter the pipes underground, Walcher said there was nearly a 100 percent disconnect on knowledge of how the water is transported.
"Literally, not one student could tell me anything about dams, reservoirs, canals and pipelines and pumping stations and treatment plants and all of the infrastructure it takes to get water out of the Arkansas River into the facet into your house."
He said if the kids don't understand this, and there's a debate on whether or not to build a dam and if it could hurt fish, they will have a very different issue if they don't understand what the dam is for. Eternal vigilance is necessary, he went on to say.
Walcher pleaded with the audience to get involved and continue to educate the younger generation.
Foreign purchases of American farmland is also a threat, according to Walcher.
"They should be worried about it, China owns 200,000 acres of American farmland, and just in the last year, spent six billion dollars buying more land and houses, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of houses and housing units, all over America."
Walcher said there are ways to protect the water we have by eliminating the invasive species of plants such as Tamararisk and Russian Olive trees. Better managing public lands is also another idea he shared. It was central to the mission of the US Forest Service, he explained. It was known in the 1880s that management of the forest would affect the amount of water in the Arkansas River.
However, even with all of the best ideas, keeping water in Colorado is going to continue to be a challenge.
"But at the end of the day, if we did all of that, if we could recreate the missing million acre feet of water in Colorado it would all still flow to California and Louisiana if we don't have additional ways to store it for use in Colorado."
Otero County Commissioner Rob Oquist attended the talk. He said we have to work hard to make sure we can keep the water we have.
"I just feel like we've got to work really hard to make sure we keep water, keep water in the Valley, you know I've never been a farmer and rancher and I don't understand enough about it, but I'm learning and it's a scary situation, because there is not enough water and if we keep giving it away and sending it off, then we're not going to have any."
Oquist agreed with Walcher that we must continue to teach the importance of water to children and the younger generation. "The older people, I listen to the older people and they all talk about water, but you don't hear younger people talk much about it."
The talk was part of a series hosted by the Otero County Republican Women called TEN Talks. The TEN Talks are free to the public and plan non-partisan issues facing all Coloradoans.