Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over

I've been watching rising fish lately.

Spring is very early, which is sorta surreal. A buddy of mine and I are talking about fishing the Hendrickson hatch some weekday in April. The hatch usually falls around his birthday which is in late April. My guess is that hatch'll be done by the anniversary of his birth.

With the bugs being early the trout in locals streams are on them. That's not something I'm going to complain about but, again, it is surreal.

A factor compounding our early spring is the mild winter. Little snow; no snow wouldn't be too far from the truth.

As a result, there's not much water right now. It is startling to look at the USGS Streamflow map and see so much red and orange Those graphical indicators of low flows are something you usually see in the late summer. Water will soon be a problem.

I live a long way, physically, mentally and aquatically, from the Front Range of the Rockies. It's a place where water is managed by treaty and tunnel. Here in Connecticut water is relatively plentiful. So much so that some folks just don't understand why protecting aquifers, wetlands, and rivers is so important.

Talking to people in Connecticut about stream flows can be like talking to Martians about conserving red dust. That said, the laws and leanings of a majority of citizens skew towards conservation, if at times at the speed of molasses.

Fortunately, our primary concern is only mother nature when it comes to water in streams. On the Front Range of the Rockies, it's a whole 'nother thing.

Eighty percent of the people in Colorado reside east of the mountains. Eighty percent of the water is on the western slopes. A cruel trick of nature causes most storms to dump their precipitation before they crawl over the Continental Divide. In any given year, thirty to fifty percent of water going to Front Range farms and faucets is from the western slope.

Population growth of the eastern slopes of the Rockies has been extraordinary over the past few decades and is expected to continue in earnest for the coming decades. In the past 10 years the population has grown around 18% and is expected to grow by as much as 50% during the next twenty years.

Unfortunately those folks are going to need water for drinking, toilet flushing, and sadly, lots of lawns. And we ain't making any more water. Current proposed projects could take up to 80% of the Upper Colorado River's flows and send them into tunnels bound for the Front Range.

As I said earlier, water doesn't feel like a scarce resource in the east, but that's deceptive. The early fishing this year has been good, especially for wild trout. We had a great water year last year and the fish have done well.

But this past winter was dry. The streams are pretty to look at and easy to fish, but come July they're going to be low and warm unless we start getting some rain. Some of the small feeders are already down to a trickle.

Streamflow regulations are something we need to strengthen here in the Northeast and things seem to be going in the right direction with a lot of hard work from people on all sides of the debate. I'd like to see our water laws improved, I just hope it doesn't get to a point where water is so scarce that it's no longer for drinking and only for fighting over.

The Watershed Movie Trailer (via Moldy Chum and TU)
Can you imagine a river where so much water is withdrawn that it no longer flows to the ocean? Damn.


  1. I fished a CT Hendrickson hatch yesterday afternoon (3/26), catching fish on top (between the gale force gusts of wind). Surreal doesn't even begin to describe it!

    1. Yeah, haven't seen the Hendricksons yet, but I expect I'll see them soon.

  2. Hits close to home for me (some of the diversions from the Colorado flow into Gross Dam, very near my home....they're trying to pass legislation to expand it. Lots of land would be lost, lots of people and animals displaced. I'm not in favor). I watched the Watershed trailer yesterday....can't wait to see the full length. Thanks for posting and drawing attention to this issue.

  3. Great read Steve. I can't believe how low the waters are around here. Been doing my rain dance for days and it isn't working. I'll keep trying.

  4. Very good post. Redford is just dreamy.


    I lived for several years at the edge of the desert, in southern California. When we moved there, I would do things like take a bucket into the shower with me to catch the "unused" water, and we then used it to water the native plants that we had planted in our yard.

    Eventually, it became so disheartening to see how much water is wasted, both in the sense that it ran unused into the sewers, but also was in the sense that it was used to grow things like Kentucky Bluegrass, that we finally threw up our hands in exasperation.

    Living in southern California opened my eyes up to the problems of limited water like nothing else could have.

    1. I expected to see the southern portion of the state be arid, but I was surprised at how little water there is in the San Francisco area as well. I can't imagine what it was like trying to live near the desert.

  5. I've been seeing the drop first hand. Since January streams have been shrinking. While the need to panic is a bit premature, it's in my mind.

  6. The Hammo is a series of small pools connected by rocks. Panic isn't far away. It's almost enough to make me drink "Whiskey".

    1. Should make dynamiting those stockies a whole lot easier.

      I gotta watch that show "Doomsday Preppers" to pick up some tips.