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SPOTLIGHT
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Grim competition

Published on -9/6/2012, 10:00 AM

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Hays and Russell are competing for water, and also vying to see who can best rationalize its profligate use.

Russell's ethanol plant provides jobs. True, for now.

If we can really extract more energy from ethanol than we invest in its manufacture, it's a close thing at best. But we are definitely substituting fossil water for fossil fuel. Guess which one will run out first, and which we need most urgently.

Hays sprays ballfields, golf courses and their environs with "wastewater." Wastewater, too, is a valuable resource.

When tiny droplets of water spray into the air on a hot windy day, simple physics decrees much of it will never reach the interior of the plants, and quite a bit won't even hit the ground.

When it comes to efficiency, spraying is wasteful. The tinier the droplets, the higher the temperature, the brisker the breeze, the faster evaporation occurs.

One hot afternoon, as we walked a block away and downwind from the sports complex, we encountered an extensive zone of remarkably cold air. It felt good.

But that chill came from the cooling effect of evaporating irrigation spray. We're turning the locale into a very large swamp cooler. That's a waste of water, in my book.

Watering such large expanses of turf via subsurface, drip or other less-inefficient methods would be very expensive. We can't afford that -- but we also can't afford to run out of water. How much will you pay for a drink when the well runs dry?

No point running that water into Big Creek -- the trees will slurp it, we're told.

That would be wasteful too. We could plant buffalo grass, and not water it at all, but then what would we do with the water? Apparently there's just no way to use that water productively. And hey, Hays does a lot already to conserve, so there's plenty left over.

Then comes the bottom line: We are legally entitled to do whatever we damn please with "our" water, so we will!

Time we focused less on inventing excuses to squander our dwindling water, and focused more on the good sense not to.

Jon Hauxwell

Hays

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