April 29, 2012 by csukach
By Chris Sukach
When discussing an area’s natural resources, many may talk of minerals, plants and wildlife. While it may be overlooked at first glance, water is a natural resource as well.
The potential of a recent drought has people of at least two states thinking more about water and its role as a vital resource.
“The amount of water we have right now is the only amount we’ll have,” explains Katie Miller, Source Water Protection Specialist for the Kansas Rural Water Association. “There’s never going to be any more or any less—it just changes forms—which is why we have to protect it.”
The limits of that resource have been a bone of contention between people living both upstream and downstream on the rivers that bisect the neighboring states of Colorado and Kansas.
The Arkansas River Compact was the result of almost a century of water disputes over the water in the Arkansas River that flows between the two states. The Compact states 60 percent of the water in the Arkansas belongs to the state of Colorado and 40 percent belongs to Kansas.
“Since we’re still using the same water that was here when the dinosaurs were around, our only choice is to help conserve it and protect it from pollution,” Miller says.
In Colorado alone, the Arkansas River Basin is the largest in area, covering 28,268 square miles or just over a quarter of the area of the state of Colorado.
Yet recent measurements from the Arkansas River monitoring station in Canon City, Colo., show that the river is well below its historic average for this time of year.
As such, the Colorado Water Conservation Board is tasked with making decisions about water usage in the state.
“We don’t use a lot of water,” says Mary Kovacevic, Colorado Springs, Colo., resident and one of the upstream members of the Arkansas River Basin area.
“When I don’t have enough water, we’re out of water,” Kovacevic says discussing the limits of water in her mountain neighborhood.
Still, the main issue for water conservation in both states may not reside with the homeowner.
“The state of Kansas did a simulation study and he [the presenter] said if you have one irrigator shut off all of his wells and didn’t pump any more, but all of his neighbors continued to pump at the same rate, it wouldn’t have hardly any impact at all,” Miller says. “Compared to if all the irrigators still utilized the water but everybody just decreased by like five percent—there’s where your impact is going to happen and we’re going to have the most benefit.”
Miller explains that not everyone has to go to extremes to make a difference in doing his or her part to conserve water.
“We just need everybody to do a little bit,” she says.