Southern California receives less than 10 inches of rain per year, yet 22 million people reside there and agriculture flourishes. Such a region has no earthly business supporting such a large population or a water-intensive agricultural economy, yet it does. How is this possible?
Water is transferred there from up to 1,000 miles away through a complex system of aqueducts and reservoirs. Bringing water to the desert in California has a history of political intrigue, corruption, poor economic planning, staggering debt and the serving of special interest groups. When William Mulholland took to the first steps to seize control of water rights in the Owens Valley in eastern California for use hundreds of miles away in the Los Angeles Basin, so began what some refer to as the California Water Wars. Farmers in the Owens Valley charged that Mulholland was stealing their water.
Why is this relevant to Connecticut, a state that receives on average more than 50 inches of rain per year, ninth most in the U.S.? We have no water shortages here.
Or do we? Even now the state weighs the option of transferring more than 2 million gallons of water per day to
This growth, however, will demand more sources of water, water that is simply not available in the immediate vicinity of Storrs. Without additional water, UConn risks damaging the surrounding environment through heavy withdrawals. Many believe UConn will be one of the state's major economic growth engines of the 21st century, but without adequate water it will, like an engine without lubrication, grind to a halt.
To solve this problem, the prevailing suggestion is to transfer water from places of abundance. One such location is the Farmington River watershed. Many residents of the Farmington Valley believe such a transfer would negatively impact this scenic and historic region, and oppose the idea. Echoes of the Owens Valley can be heard in the public hearings. Although it is unfair to compare UConn to Mulholland, it is easy to see why the residents of the
Politicians in Hartford have been paying attention. A bill proposed by State Rep. John Hampton, D-
UConn is known for supporting major environmental initiatives that have it ranked the No. 5 green campus in the U.S. by the Sierra Club. The university has an opportunity to expand on that reputation by promoting its growth and vitality without overusing water resources or needing costly and energy-intensive water transfers.
Editor's note: This story has been revised from an earlier version.