Dennis Sun: Water Is Gold

Ag columnist Dennis Sun writes, "In Western states, water is gold. The only difference is the value of water will never go down."

Dennis Sun

November 23, 20233 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Recently, I attended the first ever Wyoming Association of Irrigation Districts (WAID) Convention in Casper. I didn’t realize how timely the meeting was.

After listening to some of the speakers, I caught on to the fact, in Western states, water is gold. The only difference is the value of water will never go down.

I want to thank WAID and those involved in this inaugural convention, as they know the real value of water.

Those in rural areas realize the value of water, as there are many times they are without it. They have experienced drought, pumps going down and frozen or burst pipes, among other incidents.

Most people residing in urban areas take water for granted because it is always there. I don’t hold this against them, since they have a constant supply and pay the bill every month.

Some western states are headwater states where numerous rivers begin flowing either to the ocean or the Southwest region of the country. This is where the trouble lies, as those in the Southwest want our water and are pretty aggressive in trying to acquire it.

Currently, there is no excess water in the Colorado River system, as it is already over appropriated, and for Southwestern states to receive more water, it will have to come from agriculture in the northern parts of the river system or from agriculture and Tribes in the Southwest.

These southwestern states claim they need two to four million acre feet of water to fill their needs. An acre foot is the amount of water a foot deep over an acre of land – a huge amount of water.

Those involved in politics in southwestern states are targeting alfalfa as an unnecessary crop. They claim it utilizes too much water to grow. The majority of alfalfa grown in the Colorado River system is in southwestern states where some producers grow 10 crops a year.

Farmers can grow and harvest alfalfa with machinery and don’t have to use hand labor as they do with some vegetables.

In southwestern states, ag crops, nuts and vegetables have formed one of the largest breadbaskets of the country, but it is diminishing due to the Endangered Species Act and the need for development.

Some say close to one-third of America’s food was raised in this area, and a large part of those crops are now grown in Mexico. America is close to being a food importer instead of being food independent.

We need to remember the harsh reality of what is happening to our water.

Southwestern states are now leasing water from users in upper parts of the Colorado River system, and if this get out of hand, what will happen to those communities?

Our area has numerous communities along these Western rivers with a productive farming industry. These communities don’t have bust and booms but steady growth, and they shouldn’t be put at risk.

Dennis Sun is the publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, a weekly agriculture newspaper available in print and online.

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Dennis Sun

Agriculture Columnist