Last month, I took my family on a road trip to California. This was the very first time my three sons laid their little eyes on the ocean. Watching their emotion unfold when they experienced the enormity of the Pacific Ocean was a beautiful moment I hope to never forget. The waves crashed onto the sand with such force that for a second, I found myself terrified. But even though we spent most of our vacation beach side, I couldn’t help feeling despair from the unending drought plaguing California and most western states.
The drive from Utah to California was gut wrenching. While the state of California is putting restrictions on its residents water use, in many communities in Utah, most homes sport fertile, green lawns. So, despite this devastating drought in the west, why is the cost of using our precious water supply in Utah so cheap?
According to the Utah Department of Water Resources, Utah is the second driest state in the nation. We also have the second highest rate of water usage, while paying some of the cheapest rates. Does this make sense? It does if you look at the majority of reservoirs that Utah pulls its water supply from. The reservoirs are close in proximity to our homes, many catching snow run-off from the mountains — so we don’t have to pay for water transported from far away. But my environmental mind questions — Is it fair to hold mountain water run-off in our state’s reservoirs to use at our disposal when the water would naturally flow to other areas plagued by drought?
This past year, floodgates were opened along the US-Mexican border to allow for water to once again flow to the Colorado River Delta in Mexico. This attempted to revitalize the natural environment; sending water to where it needs to go, “The restoration of the delta is important not just for wildlife but also for the people and for socioeconomic benefits.” Francisco Zamora of the Sonoran Institute Colorado River Delta Program said.
While my family travels to remote, beautiful western mountain areas for family vacations, we are struck by just how fragile our natural environment is. Water, just like our air and land, must be protected and, not exploited. In Utah, we should be conserving water and looking for ways to solve and adapt to our drought situation. For parents, the drought in the west shines a defining light on the dangerous effects of climate change — leaving it up to our children to discover the hard way, why our valuable national resources are not ours to waste.