FLOBECK: Label thinking can pollute water discourse

By: Jack Flobeck
February 2, 2014 Updated: February 2, 2014 at 8:40 am
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Some years ago, when starting a small business, I spent hours and days reading, researching and thinking about the pitfalls, risks and rewards of my new venture. One of the most interesting articles I read concerned "label thinking." The author recounted an incident where to prove a point about possible evils of labels, a waggish writer took the opening words of our Declaration of Independence, modified some of the "olde" English, substituted a few modern words but signed copies of the document with two signatures. The writing was appealing to all citizen readers, but the signatories to the two different copies were: Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Gov. Adlai Stevenson. The jokester sent thousands of copies to people across his state, asking for opinions and if they recognized any of the words or thoughts. The responses were overwhelming, with 100 percent approval for the Stevenson edition and 100 percent negative for the identical McCarthy piece, without a single soul recognizing the great words of wisdom from our Founding Fathers. This vividly points out that seldom do citizens thoroughly read a document but are instantly available to criticize, often disregarding any effort to think, understand or differentiate.

The funniest and most tragic story of label thinking involved a survey done at dozens of all-union plants in Ohio, where workers were asked to write "yes" or "no" about support of 10 questions, the first nine of which were the exact main precepts of a new law, with the last question, "do you support the Taft-Hartley Act?" The results were that 85-95 percent of the workers were in favor of all nine elements of the law, while 100 percent - yes 100 percent - were against the law. The rule seems to be that if you put a label on it, you get emotion.

So, too, with progress we seek in water, water law, irrigation efficiency, desalination, brackish water treatment and reuse of household wash water. If one speaks of change or advocates progress you are immediately labeled as either anti-clean air, anti- clean water, anti-poor, anti-people or even anti-American.

Your correspondent is none of the onerous labels written above and here wishes to suggest some positive alternatives to protect us all from drought, wildfires and the specter of parched and desolate farms.

Can we get over West Slope versus East Slope and call ourselves Coloradans? Seems that we all have Colorado driving licenses and fishing licenses in our wallets valid from Utah to Kansas and New Mexico to Wyoming.

Could our legislators form a permanent water study committee to examine and report on a periodic basis to the whole Legislature on water surpluses and deficits?

Could we put to rest the discussion of the evil people on the right side of the map who plant Kentucky bluegrass, which gulps water at prodigious rates? The irony here is that recent studies show that K. blue survives drought the best of most grasses. Could we try to eliminate the fall flooding to "use it or lose it, by amending existing regulations?"

What kind of incentives can we design to encourage the cultivation of zinnias, chives and marigolds as an alternative to alfalfa which yields such lean profits while using huge amounts of valuable water?

All state taxpayers share the load to build roads to ski resorts, but are there measures we are overlooking which could set up accounting systems for the water used by resorts to make snow and compare with rates for residential or agricultural use?

Would our ski areas participate in run off control where they not only saved water for snow making, but built holding ponds for fire suppression?

Most of these ideas and suggestions don't require a D or an R label after a name; nor do they require a West Slope or East Slope designation; they simply require brave initiative and pioneer guts to stand up and fight for Colorado first, putting special interests and social agendas second. Without water, arguments over marriage, marijuana and minimum wages are moot.

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