Liquid Gold

Water in the desert is one of the most prized possessions. Just like with other commodities, our state has gone through many trials and tribulations in attempting to manage the demand and supply of H20. Some, more powerful and influential people are able to purchase water rights[1]; making their access to water a function of their power and privilege. Many of Colorado residents rely on tap water or irrigation water for their outdoor use. A large bill for irrigation or tap water may be a much bigger issue for those living in poverty. It could also be the difference between being able to garden and supplement their diet and not being able to afford it[2]. This is again another example of marginalized populations bearing the brunt of social injustices.

Thankfully, the State of Colorado has recently passed a bill that allows Colorado Residents to collect rain water. The bill is titled, 16-1005 and was approved April 1, 2016. Due to this new legislation, each household is thought to be able to collect 1,200 gallons of water per year-just enough for a small garden. With this new bill, each home can have two 55 gallons collecting water at any time.[3]

But why is this such a big deal you ask?

Access to water to grow crops is an issue of social justice because the poor are less able to use water due to its cost. The reason this new legislation is important is due to the fact that it symbolizes our devotion to keep water in the hands of all people, not just a wealthy few.

At this time I would like to make a comparison to the Bolivian water privatization issue in 2000. The Bolivian government at the time, sold water rights to a company named Bechtel. Consequently, water prices rose drastically and people were forced to use water only for drinking and other basic household tasks. People were unable to garden due to the exponential price increase and some people were unable to afford simple drinking water. In recounts of the “Water Wars” farmers were quoted as saying that they feared that “even the rain” would be sold to Bechtel.

The terrifying reality is that in Colorado we did recently have laws that prohibited us from collecting rain water. I am not arguing that Colorado privatized water rights like Bolivia[4], but I would like to highlight that the effects were similar. Undoubtedly Bolivia’s water crisis was on a much grander scale but Coloradans without access to affordable irrigation water were also impacted by somebody else’s ownership of a natural resource that should belong to us all. The Bolivians revolted and ended up running Bechtel out of their country. In Colorado, we rallied behind a bill that put rain water back into the hands of all residents.

rain barrel
Photo Credit: Google Images
garden boxes
Photo Credit: Google Images

 

[1] Rainwater, Graywater, and Storm Water. (2016, February 24). Retrieved April 27, 2016, from http://water.state.co.us/Surfacewater/Swrights/Pages/RainwaterGraywater.aspx

 

[2] Mathwich, E. (2016, March 30). Rain Barrel Bill Clears Key Senate Committee and Moves to Senate Floor. Retrieved April 27, 2016, from http://conservationco.org/2016/03/rain-barrel-bill-clears-key-senate-committee-and-moves-to-senate-floor/

[3] Residential Precipitation Collection – HB 16-1005. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2016, from http://extras.denverpost.com/app/bill-tracker/bills/2016a/hb_16-1005/

[4] From Water Wars to Water Scarcity: Bolivia’s Cautionary Tale. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2016, from https://nacla.org/blog/2013/6/5/water-wars-water-scarcity-bolivia’s-cautionary-tale

 

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