Tentative Definition and Cost-Effective Implementation
of Water Conservation Measures
based partially on
Water Conservation: The Struggle over Definition
[D.D. Baumann, 1984]
In his above referenced article, the author discusses many elements and parameters pertaining to the concept of water conservation. He focuses on the wide-ranging discussion among conservationists about an acceptable method of defining this critical component of ecological balance. In fact, Baumann suggests that distribution, management and planning constitute important elements of any tentative definition of water conservation. But he also stresses the need to reduce consumption or, at least, to allocate consumption wisely. It is the duty of every conscientious person to ensure adequate water supplies for future generations, and to do so in the interest of all of the earth’s citizens.
Therefore, in my definition, I would like to emphasize the need to limit water consumption in areas where this resource is scarce. Where it is plentiful, water can be used liberally, but it still must be consumed wisely. Planning and management, in my opinion, do not belong in the formal definition, but they are features of the water equation. Predicated on this line reasoning, my definition would be the following:
"Water conservation is the prudent reduction of consumption patterns usually in the presence of impending scarcity, and the judicious allocation of this precious resource to the highest priority needs, whether residential, livestock, agricultural, or industrial. Planning and management are important facets of conservation, but can be designed in accordance with the specific needs of the region in question."
This perspective takes into account the need to achieve an economic and cost-effective manner (1) of maintaining ecological balance and (2) of , at the same time, ensuring development of the potentially rich lands of the American Far West. Effective decisions could easily be made by conservationists, and planners, on the basis of priorities established under my foregoing definition. The types of decisions that would be made, under these definitional guidelines, would prove to be in line with modern thinking in the field of cost-benefit analysis. These decisions could be short-term or long-term in nature. It is especially important to plan economically for the long term, due to the compounded benefits which would accrue over an extended period of time, assuming proper planning and management systems were implemented. Consumption needs, as in the Colorado River Basin, may change over time, but the ideal conservation formula could be adjusted to promote ‘sensible’ economic development in the interest of all parties concerned, while still maintaining the precious water resource base, so cherished by environmentalists and ecologists.
Recently, President Clinton signed a major piece of legislation affecting the Grand Canyon, its water resources, and surrounding lands. His decision stirred controversy, but was welcomed by conservationists who, using a definition very similar to mine above, felt that water and land resources must remain available for future use, while at the same time promoting sustained and rational development for ranchers and tourists.
Whether one takes the (political) side of the developers or of the conservationists, my definition -- because of its emphasis on reduced consumption and wise allocation -- will ensure slow to medium growth in the eight Western States generally considered vulnerable to excessive or poorly planned water use patterns.
It is important to recognize, as well, that both the costs and benefits of water conservation could be kept in balance by careful implementation of the ‘reduced consumption’ concept, along with the primary governing principles of sustained, sensible development of the Western States’ economic base.