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Rain & Shine: Planning for Green Part Three

Kori Stanton

It behooves those of us who live in the West to think proactively about how to fight desertification. At this point, if we are not actively making choices to do so we will become desertified. The basic thing to understand is that anything which decreases the ability of the land to retain water, or increases the rate at which water leaves the land is adding to the problem. Anything that slows water down and helps it stick around is the solution.

“Evapotranspiration—the combination of water transpired from plants and water that evaporates from soil or open water bodies—is an important component of the Colorado River Basin water budget”. Actions like overgrazing grasses, cutting down big trees, tilling soil and leaving them bare, and changing landscapes that are covered with plants into hardscapes covered with cement all increase the rate that water leaves the landscape, decrease local moisture, and interfere with the soil's ability to absorb water in the first place. Unfortunately, when we try to be more “efficient” with water through putting ditches into underground pipes, while we may save some in the short run in the long run we are causing the system to dry out. Water shared with the landscape feeds the whole system which in turn keeps it green and keeps water cycling in healthy patterns that protect us from drought.

Colorado River Basin USGS
Evaluating Landsat 8 evapotranspiration for water use mapping in the Colorado River Basin
Colorado Water Center, CSU