Water Lines: Killing trees with careless conservation
Free Press Weekly Columnist
City foresters came and chopped down the two big sycamores in my front yard recently. It was fascinating to watch the man with the chainsaw go up in a bucket truck and systematically lop off limbs and sections of trunk that were then fed into a chopper. Within an hour, probably less, a tree that took decades to grow was gone.
I lost those trees by accident. I thought I was being a good citizen by giving my front lawn the minimum amount of water needed to keep it somewhat green, and I thought that would be enough to keep the trees alive, too. I was wrong.
I knew sycamores weren’t the ideal trees for Grand Junction’s climate, but they were planted long before my time; and I appreciated the shade they gave to my house and the sidewalk, and then leaves to play in and feed to the compost pile. It will be a long time before replacement trees come close to providing the same service.
Not wasting water is important. The state of Colorado projects a significant gap between water supply and demand in coming decades. Region-wide, for over 10 years more water has been sucked out of the Colorado River and its tributaries for cities and farms than has come back in through rain and snow. That’s why pictures of the infamous “bathtub rings” around Lakes Powell and Mead keep making the news. And water used on lawns is water not available for fish.
For all these reasons and more, it makes sense to use water carefully, making sure every drop counts. What counts will be different for different people, but I believe a lot of water is used in ways that don’t really count for anyone.
However, carelessly cutting back on water use carries costs as well. I liked my trees, and I wish I’d kept them healthy. I probably could have cut back elsewhere and saved the same amount of water without such a high cost.
Going forward, I’ll do better research on how much water my trees and other features of my landscape really need. And, of course, I’ll choose trees better suited to a low-water lifestyle. I’ll study the Colorado State University Extension’s Web resources, such as “Xeriscaping Trees and Shrubs” (http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07229.html ) and “Watering a Home Landscape During Drought” (http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07240.html ), and I’ll ask a lot more questions at local nurseries.
This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center on Facebook at Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or Twitter at Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.
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