Moab Wetlands

Water supply limits come into focus: a recent study by the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) showed that groundwater resources in the Spanish Valley watershed are 30 to 40% lower than previously reported. These results have implications for future development in the area. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

I write because kicking the watering can down the road is no longer working.

I recently heard a presentation by John Weisheit of Living Rivers. No can kicking there. In fact, he presents a very accurate projection for the entire Colorado River watershed from its beginning in the Rockies to the fact that the river no longer makes it to the Gulf of California—and the serious problems concerning the water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

Then the April 1-7 2021 edition of the Moab Sun News included an editorial about how 2/3 of the Earth’s land is on pace to lose water as the climate warms. No can kicking there. The article detailed three types of droughts: meteorological, agricultural and hydrological. Moab and Spanish Valley are experiencing all three.

Meteorological = lack of precipitation. Check. Agricultural = lack of water in the soils. Check. Hydrological = lack of water in rivers and ground water. Check.

These droughts will not continue for merely a year or two—they will continue to increase until the end of the century.

Then I read a caption on the front page of the other Moab newspaper, “MOAB COULD SAFELY USE MORE WATER.” Could there possibly be a more blatant example of can kicking? It sounds like a developer’s dream statement to me. The article mentions the use of pristine drinking water for irrigation and the solution is to pull water for irrigation out of the Colorado River. Um...will that really be possible and affordable? Do we here in this corner of the West (notably the most changed and warmed climate in the United States) really believe that we have an abundance of water and that we can continue to kick the watering can down the road? Before we adopt the preliminary estimates from Utah’s Division of Water Rights, all eyes had better be on a bigger picture than just how much we can ‘safely’ develop the amount of water we estimate is underground NOW without looking into how much will be recharged in the 21st century.

I certainly hope that the Moab Sun News will continue to publish articles and editorials about the reality of water in the world, the USA, the West and specifically in Moab and Spanish Valley. Must we wait until the spigot is dry to listen to the conservationists?