The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

August 7, 2012

Gail Melgren, guest columnist: Drought is a wake-up call

Water is a precious resource. Without it, communities cannot thrive. This fact comes clearly into focus as drought conditions worsen across two-thirds of the continental U.S., including our region.

For most of us, water has always been readily available, with no limit on how much we use, and it’s always been cheap.

We don’t even think about it, we just expect it to be there. However, sources for the supply of water do have limits. Drought shrinks those limits, and helps us to realize how critical water is as a resource.

When Missouri American asked its water customers in the Joplin area to voluntarily conserve water because Shoal Creek, the main source of supply for Joplin, is way down, it did so to keep demand for water within the limits of supply during drought. Other water providers in drought affected areas have made similar requests.

Conservation of water is an important first step. One that I hope people will consider adopting year-round. If the drought continues, and water levels drop further, mandatory water restrictions will kick in. Using water conservatively is the first step.

The next step is to think about and plan for the long-term water supply needs of our growing region.

In a hot, dry summer like this one, the need for long-term planning to ensure adequate future water supply becomes very apparent.

Water is a critical infrastructure resource for residents, agriculture, business and industry. We see roads and electricity lines, but water infrastructure is hidden. Out of sight tends to be out of mind. It’s there, though, under the streets, inside our walls, planned and managed by water providers.

Those providers can only deliver the supply that is available.

Drought serves as a wake-up call that we should not take water for granted. We should use this precious resource carefully. It’s also a wake-up call to plan for future water needs.

If you’re interested in seeing what the drought looks like, check out www.usdrought monitor.com. If you want to contribute to the smart use of water, conserve your use. And when you think ahead to the long-term health of our region, remember that without adequate water supply our communities cannot thrive.

Tri-State Water Resource Coalition, a coalition of cities, counties and water providers in Southwest Missouri, has been working on long-term water supply planning for almost a decade.

Our mission is to meet the long-term water supply needs of our region. For more information, check out its website: www.tristatewater.org.

Gail Melgren is executive director of Tri-State Water Resource Coalition.

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