The News from the Ancient Lake

Sandhill Crane

Wow. I’m out of shape for writing like this after what — a month off more or less? I finished the last category of books yesterday and this morning Facebook told me that on this day, last year, I finished my books for 2021. Like the crocus in my garden, the Sandhill Cranes on the wing, Teddy at 8 pm when he thinks it’s time to jump on my bed, and Bear at 9 pm when she wants a cookie — I’m a clock.

As has happened so many times this winter, snow is in the forecast, but not enough to make a dent in our scary arid conditions. I remember other winters when there WAS snow, and in 2019 there was so much that the Rio Grande flooded. So maybe next year. I hope.

A fast growing, affluent county north east of here, south of Denver, Douglas County, has proposed to buy our water. It’s a hotly contested proposal, and I don’t think it’s going to, uh, wash (ha ha). In the first place, the San Luis Valley doesn’t have any water to sell and most of the people and organizations down here have dug in their heels. BUT Douglas County has offered a sizable amount of money (it appears so, anyway, though it isn’t) and some people are motivated by money. Even our execrable congress twit has come out against it — more to improve her re-election chances than because she knows anything about it.

Based on the hydrologic situation of the Valley, “RWR’s project would place undue risks on San Luis Valley (SLV) water users and ratepayers (water customers) in Douglas County.” Harmon points out that “All of the layers [of the SLV aquifer system] are hydrologically connected with each other and also, at many points, the aquifer system is connected to surface streams. Thus when you pump the aquifer at one point, it can affect other locations many miles away.”

The result? “Potential long-term effects, poorly understood now due to the limitations of our scientific knowledge, may crop up as injury many years in the future…. If any of these unintended consequences eventually causes injury or increases costs, who bears the burden? Higher-than-planned pumping, treatment, storage, or conveyance costs would likely be borne by ratepayers in Douglas County. Other long-term impacts of RWR, such as land subsidence or excessive drawdown, would be borne by the SLV community.”

Read the full op-ed: https://www.protectsanluisvalleywater.com/…/3ee89d…#StopWaterExport#ProtectSLVWater



In other news? If you want to see beautiful photos of cranes, here’s your opportunity: Monte Vista Crane Festival Group. It’s a public Facebook group which means you don’t have to be a Facebook person to see the photos. I will say it is a very heart-warming “place” to visit from time to time. People feel a warmth toward Sandhill Cranes that seems to transcend all of our human bullshit. Cranes have the power to bring out the best in people. ❤

36 thoughts on “The News from the Ancient Lake

  1. I’m not on FB but was still able to see the photos–what a sight, indeed. And the sound…! No wonder you love it so.

    • That’s the grace of a public group. It’s just going to get better as more people with fancy cameras show up. There’s an old guy coming down today who takes beautiful photos — and carries cookies for Bear in his truck. Keep checking in.

  2. I love your photo. Unfortunately, big business will sell their mother’s soul for a buck…water as a commodity is a issue up here. I don’t know the current situation, but our neighbours to the south have expressed an interest, that I feel should not be considered, no offence. I hope they consider all the implications before settling on an agreement.

    • No offense taken. I think we should figure stuff out rather than stealing from each other. This particular neighbor to the south thinks of SK along with MT WY Alberta all of it as the sacred Big Empty — actually, I think of most of the world that way.

    • I know. All anyone has to do is look at Lake Powell or Mono Lake to see how that would eventually turn out. Hong Kong has been desalinating water for a long time. I imagine other places have, too. That’s just the only place I know of since this is not one of my areas of expertise. (Ha ha like I have ANY such areas…)

      • When my wife was around kindergarten age, she made some long-forgotten claim, to which another kid retorted “What do you know?!” Her answer was “I know paint.” That has become our go-to answer – but you really do know paint! (And medieval history and China and cranes and dogs…)

  3. I have a friend who lives in the Mojave near Barstow. Had to dig his well a lot deeper than it was. When the local alfalfa farmer would irrigate his fields, the water in my friend’s well would drop by 30 feet and slowly recover. Meanwhile, his pump would suck air.

    In my mind, the desert is not the place to be growing water intensive crops. Of course the farmer was using spray irrigation on one of those circular fields, a terribly inefficient method in a hot windy climate, but as far as he was concerned the water was free and any other irrigation method would cost money to implement. Not his problem if your well isn’t deep enough.

    OTOH, he needs to make a living too.

    According to Mark Twain, “Whiskey is just for drinking. Water is for fighting.”

    • I like Twain’s statement. Where water is concerned there are just so many out-of-human-control variables I can’t even begin to think about it. Circular irrigation is apparently the most efficient for some crops and not others though when I see it working I think, “Huh?” Farmers out here use it for some crops but not all. The old Spanish acequias are in use here, too. The main advantage (as far as I’ve been able to figure it out) is that the farmer can put the water where the crops are and it reduces erosion. I truly trust the farmers out here to do things in the most efficient way. Their lives depend on it. But alfalfa in the Mojave seems a little over the top… But I truly don’t know.

      • I wouldn’t hold the farmers of your area to the same standards I’d hold farmers in the Mojave. Or even worse, the Colorado or Sonoran Deserts. We’ve been stuck in an extreme drought situation for a decade now.

        Some kind of subsurface drip is far more efficient but also much more expensive. A mulch of some sort also conserves water. I don’t know if this is compatible with alfalfa. You should adapt one’s crops and techniques to the environment you live in.

        IMHO, you should simply not grow water intensive crops in the open desert. The real problem is that US agriculture developed with water being essentially free and it is difficult to adapt to a reduced supply.

  4. There is such greed in this world. *sigh* It scares me when people want to mess with the aquifers without understanding the consequences…

  5. Welcome back, Martha! It’s so good to “see” you! The cranes, Bear, and Teddy, and the calendar, keep you right on schedule. I’m a bit OCD on my routines and by 8:15 Finn is staring at me from the floor thinking, “And WHEN are we going to bed?” She and I are very early risers, lol. Like you, I’m shocked that alfalfa is the crop of choice. I read where its grown in many NW states though. In Missouri it’s huge. Farmers can yield more profit than corn. I have my tiny hydroponic grower with cilantro and 3 types of lettuce. Perhaps alfalfa might be fine in drier areas? I hear this gospel song in my head, “Dig a little deeper in the well, boys, dig a little deeper in the well.” I just have such a hard time with our “first world” problems.

  6. I’m afraid water will be man/womankind’s last frontier one day. What a battle. It will be interesting to see if your water does end up on the auction block.
    I can see why you love the Sandhill Cranes so much – amazing! We had snow today – several inches. So pretty. And Spring is just around the corner….

  7. Water had to be trucked into towns/regional cities that had run out of water in our big drought. I guess it depends on what they want to use it for.
    Usually when pumped out of aquifers there is an increase in salinity. No-one wins. What’s the long range forecast for rain in your part of the world, Martha? I guess your cranes are part of that story …

    • Nope. I don’t think it should either. What blows me away is that people are willing to sell their water rights without thinking that their water rights affect everyone in the drainage area. Just because a guy has a right to use X amount of water/year doesn’t make that water his. It’s a loan.

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