#NPRH2O: NPR’s “Michel Martin Going There” tackles “The Future of Water”

NPR panel discussion of The Future of Water at CSU May 24, 2016. L to R: Patty Limerick, Roger Frugua, Melissa Mays, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kathleen Curry, and host Michel Martin.
NPR panel discussion of The Future of Water at CSU May 24, 2016. L to R: Patty Limerick, Roger Frugua, Melissa Mays, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kathleen Curry, and host Michel Martin.

What a hoot at Colorado State University last night. NPR and KUNC collaborated to host a national conversation about The Future of Water.

The panel included, Patty Limerick (Colorado State Historian), Kathleen Curry (Former state legislator from Gunnison County), author Paolo Bacigalupi (The Water Knife), Melissa Mays (Resident from Flint, Michigan), and Roger Fragua (Spiritual leader form the Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico).

Ms. Martin asked pointed questions and kept the discussion on track. She had done her homework about the Colorado River Basin and water issues in general.

The event turned into a national Twitter fest using hashtag #NPRH2O. Click here to view all the Tweets. (If you don’t have a Twitter account you can still view them. After you click the link, click the “Live” button at the top of the page. Scroll down to the bottom and read upward since Tweets are posted in reverse chronological order.)

Reading the Tweets will give you an understanding of the conversation. I observed entries from coast to coast. It was a great example of social media enabling folks to interact with each other.

Colorado water law and prior appropriation are under scrutiny nowadays. Kathleen Curry risked the enmity of some by asserting that, “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for newcomers. This [Colorado water law] is how it works here.”

She understands that senior water rights mean a lot to food production and that Colorado has the most active water market in the US. She also cautioned that forcing efficiency on the ag sector would lead to higher prices at the grocery store. She touched on the need for wise use of changed ag water rights by the urban areas. She also mentioned the 800 pound gorilla of water management — land use and growth management.

Curry added, “I’m not overly optimistic that things will change. Water follows money,” and, “We’re taking a fixed amount of water and reallocating it here in the West.”

Patty Limerick always finds a way to get at the heart of issues. She warned, “Whenever you get a simple position it means you haven’t thought enough.”

She also mentioned rhetorically, “Maybe conventional agriculture wasn’t the best idea for the West.”

Paolo Bacigalupi was more direct, saying, “We’ve done magical things because of our engineering prowess but populations exist where they should never have been.”

Ms. Limerick expanded on that theme when Melissa Mays asserted that Flint’s problem was a national problem. Patty defended water providers in general countering Mays claim with, “I’m a friend of many water managers. I know that there are dedicated people that are in our camp. We need them.”

“In the US we like to address our natural world in terms of commodities,” said Bacigalupi, “The value of water is infinite since we will pay almost any amount to survive.”

He summed up the importance of the evening saying, “We need to become more comfortable with abstract thinking and wonky subjects like water quality.”

Click through to the Tweet stream cited above. I guarantee that it is safe for work and of course I believe that learning and talking about water issues is the most important thing you can do.

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