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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Friday — April 16, 2004


A wakeup crisis
for the West

It is the trusting nature of Americans that whatever crisis comes along, it will vanish if they just wait.

However, waiting is not the solution for Western U.S. states that are in a drought crisis. Waiting, in fact, only worsens the problem.

Maps of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center tell the story—east of the Mississippi, virtually normal precipitation; west of the Mississippi, each state color-coded with varying degrees of drought from moderate to exceptional.

Even if Mother Nature provided normal precipitation, it would be insufficient. The Western United States is the nation’s fastest growing region, with urban centers such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and even Boise exploding with more people.

Mushrooming populations mean crushing demands on available water—lush residential landscaping, golf courses, water recreational areas, hydroelectric power generation, not to mention agriculture’s enormous thirst.

On top of this growth is six years of drought, with a continuing dry spell forecast by climatologists.

The Colorado River’s gigantic Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border is at 42 percent capacity. The aquifer in the Moscow-Pullman area on the Idaho-Washington border is falling a foot each year. Widespread potential crop and pasture losses are being forecast by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Since Western states share the same watersheds, a serious problem needs serious attention.

Instead of spotty local efforts, the entire Western region needs to be saturated with straight-talking, ongoing information about the consequences of water scarcity.

The region needs a crisis-management program to impose conservation and water rationing measures that have teeth.

New irrigation methods must be explored, especially for golf courses, and treated wastewater needs to be utilized more fully.

Gluttonous consumers can survive a fuel shortage for automobiles. But without water, the ability to sustain life is in peril.

Surely, if President Bush needs a manufacturing czar to protect the future of industry, a federal program to ensure adequate water for the nation’s fastest growing, but parched, region rates Washington’s concern.


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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.