Friday, May 16, 2014

Colorado Population Overshoot and Death Spiral

The first thing to go extinct is always memory.

The cities on the Front Range of the Rockies -- Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs -- have an endless thirst which has led to massive water diversions and the "drying up" of vast amounts of wetlands, farms, and ranches.

A good example is the area I passed through last Saturday -- the South Park basin, a high alpine valley southwest of Denver that is part of the South Platte River drainage.

I am told that forty years ago, this place was lush and green with grass -- an irrigated mountain wetland with abundant waterfowl and fat cattle. 


In the 1960's and 70's, however, Denver and Colorado Springs acquired most of the water rights in this area from landowners and the diversion of water from agricultural fields to city use began.

Today South Park is a virtual desert.

The city of Aurora, a suburb of Denver, is blunt about their part of the destruction.  On that city's government web site they tell the history:

Founded in 1891, the city of Aurora was originally named Fletcher by its founder, former Chicago resident Donald Fletcher. In 1907, the town’s name was changed to Aurora.

The town initially obtained water from a well dug by a private water company. Additional wells dug along the banks of Sand Creek were used to meet the city’s growing demand

As the town’s demand outpaced its well capacity, Aurora turned to Denver to supply it with water. In the 1920s, Denver limited the number of new taps in Aurora. In the 1940s, Denver announced that it would not deliver water south of 6th Avenue or east of Peoria Street. As a result, Aurora began pursuing its own water supplies.

In the 1960s, Aurora began buying irrigation water from ranches in the upper South Platte River basin and transferring the consumptive use portion to municipal uses.

In 1964, Aurora initiated, for municipal use, a direct flow water right in the vicinity of the present Strontia Springs Reservoir through the Otero Pump Station.

In 1967, Aurora collaborated with Colorado Springs, to complete the Homestake Project, a reservoir, collection and delivery system that diverts water from Homestake Creek, a tributary of the Eagle River, and delivers it to Spinney Mountain Reservoir.

In 1973, Aurora initiated an appropriation for a water right for the Spinney Mountain Reservoir (Spinney) on the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. Spinney construction was completed in 1981. Aurora’s purchase of irrigation water rights in the South Park area continued into the 1990s. These transfers included water rights associated with ranches in the Tarryall Creek Basin and upstream of the present Spinney.

In 1986, the water court approved a transfer of irrigation water rights from the Rocky Ford Ditch in the Arkansas River Basin for municipal use. Aurora subsequently acquired those water rights. Aurora also acquired an interest in changed water rights of the Colorado Canal, on the main stem of the Arkansas River.

In short, Aurora and Denver are putting their collective straws into life-sustaining waters sourced hundreds of mile away.

People are the parasites on this land, and have no illusion they ARE killing their host.

What Denver, Aurora, and Colorado Springs have already done to South Park, these cities and suburbs are now about to do to Middle Park.

It's not that the people of Colorado are evil. The problem is that there's too many of them.

It does not help that the foreigners from the Eastern U.S. and the American Midwest bring with them their non-native cultural demands of big lawns, verdant golf courses, and perennial flower beds.  

What?  You say a garden design lifted from a book written by Gertrude Jekyll is inappropriate for the Front Range of Colorado? 

Then be prepared to be called an infidel, a cultural imperialist, or even a nattering nabob of negativism. 

What concern is it of yours what kind of plants people put in their own gardens provided, of course, that they have the cash to pay their water bills? 

Free dumb!

The only green that matters is that which can be found in a wallet!

And so the great and verdant high prairie, where native Americans once hunted vast herds of Buffalo, is rapidly being turned into a desert.

What was once living and loved is quickly being killed and is now no longer even well remembered.

There were buffalo here once?  Really?

There were Arapho here once?  Really?

This was verdant grass grown in fertile fields soggy with water?  Really?

The first thing to go extinct is always memory, and once that is gone, there is never going back.


Fall Charmz said...

Great post - only want to add that the people moving to Colorado are NOT only from the
"Eastern U.S. and the American Midwest" - and many are from the Western states as well - namely California!! - and of course - Mexico!

mugwump said...

I am in constant mourning for the destruction of my beloved state. I am at a loss for answers. There are too many of us. A large portion of the water that passes through here is owned by other states, so we can't use it. We live in an arid, fragile place at high high altitude, yet cover it with water sucking landscapes and crops.
I don't know the answer for anyone else. For myself, I'm working hard at learning to live a low impact, sustainable life that matches this beautiful place. It's all I've got.