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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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For the week of Jan 29 - Feb 4, 2003

Opinion Columns

Water, water...not everywhere anymore

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Mother Nature is a forgiving soul. She tolerates humankindís foolish abuses and reckless excesses with her resources, sometimes even making up for our wasteful ways with her bounty.

If itís not wildlife being decimated to near-extinction, itís fouled air and poisoned water.

Now, once again, throughout the nation, water scarcity is an issue.

Some communities are living on the edge of crises.

Itís not just arid Western states, either. Atlanta, the Southís booming cosmopolitan megalopolis, is dealing with critical water shortages despite the regionís reputation for gully-washer downpours.

Then thereís Phoenix, where the enormous electric and water utility Salt River Project is cutting back on allocation to water users.

In Colorado, actual rationing has been decreed in some cities. The Denver suburb of Westminster has even halted further water connections to reduce consumption as well as restrict growth.

And thatís the operative wordógrowth.

The math is simple: the earth is not generating more water supplies to quench the thirst of a rapidly expanding population that creates more demand with lushly landscaped residential areas and water-hungry industry.

City planners who were dazzled by the prospect of unlimited growth failed to weigh the consequences of growth, especially in water supplies.

Now the crush is on to find more water and to curtail consumption through conservation (rationing, alternate irrigating days and desert landscaping) and through limiting growth.

Water shortages touch everyone. If housing is restricted, building trades, suppliers and banks lose. High-tech industry so dependent on water for production loses. Water recreation loses. And down through the economic food chain.

One nightmare that few talk about is the rapid acquisition of water rights by corporations that see fertile profits in selling lifeís necessity like just another product with high margins.

Idaho communities thus far have escaped the crises of other cities. But history suggests Idaho should learn: several generations ago, when reservoirs were filled and rivers had not yet run dry, those communities thought water was limitless.

Idaho as well as other states know they can expect scant attention to water from the current White House, which routinely ridicules alarms about the environment, then calls for even less control and management of water and air resources.

Idahoís Republican governor and politicians shrugged off fears of an economic downturn when they slashed taxes, and now are in a pickle on how to pay the bills. So, the stateís more thoughtful leaders need to look ahead to how much growth can Idahoís future water supplies shoulder and how they can be managed.

To ignore the future merely means unborn Idaho generations will face crises their grandparents couldíve anticipated but didnít because they lived for today but didnít plan for tomorrow.


A new bumper sticker thatís shown up locally could be interpreted in one of several ways.

"Regime change begins at home," it reads.

Does that mean in the White House, Idaho Capitol or Ketchum City Hall?

Take your pick.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.