15 March 2015 - Water, a Valuable and Necessary Resource

Growing up in the Midwest where we generally receive ample rainfall every crop year, we don’t think a great deal about water. In 1992 I built a home in Scottsdale, Arizona, in the heart of the desert, which has become a major retirement destination for snow birds from the North, Midwest and Northeast. The result is the Valley of the Sun has exploded from a few cattle ranches, cotton and produce fields to a metropolitan area of five-million people

I quickly became aware of the value of water and how precious it can be, because the first time I received a monthly water bill for my residence, I thought it was an offer for my house. I then realized that water is a commodity to be used wisely and sparingly.

Earlier this month, the Sunday Arizona Republic devoted its front page to a huge photograph of a couple of ranchers moving a few cattle across a highway under the headline ‘Old West vs. New West’. The story was basically about water and agriculture’s use of water because there are many newcomers in the Valley who feel the desert is not the place for farming and ranching.

Yet, without the desert’s production in the winter time, fresh fruit and vegetables would be scarce and very expensive in the cold areas of the nation that can’t produce crops six months of the year. We really need the production that comes from the West, mainly California and Arizona where many producers compete for precious water from the Colorado River that also provides water for cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix that have gone through a huge population growth since the 1950's.

So, who should get the water? Urban dwellers say they need it to flush their toilets, water their lawns and wash their cars, and they say farmers and ranchers should move to states where there is more rainfall. Farmers and ranchers say “We were here first and you have no right to take all of our water and destroy our way of life.”

Seven states take water from the Colorado River. With the multi-year drought and the lack of snow pack and rainfall in the Sierra’s and Rockies, California farmers have already been told they will not get their quota of water for the 2015 crop year.

We are long overdue to start formulating a national water-use policy to make the best use of water across the country. Agriculture has made great strides in water-use efficiency and urban areas need to step up their practices. We must never forget that without water, there is no food or fiber.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.