When I write my “water in the desert” bits here or at work, I have this underlying image that motivates my thinking. It’s a childhood car camping vacation (one of many, the image is broad and generic). It is before the days of ubiquitous auto air conditioning. We’re driving across the beautiful deserts of the Four Corners, all hot and dusty. Every so often the thin ribbon of hot, shimmering asphalt drops into an oasis – a ribbon of cottonwood trees along some river.
That’s the image I had in mind when I tackled the issues surrounding the San Juan River in northwest New Mexico (see also the sidebar):
As New Mexicans bump up against their water limits, all eyes are on the San Juan River. Rising in the mountains of Southern Colorado and meandering through northwest New Mexico before joining the Colorado River, it is the closest thing we have in the state to an underused water resource.
# Santa Fe and Albuquerque are preparing to tap into it, via a tunnel that carries San Juan water beneath the Continental Divide to the state’s most populous region.
# Gallup and the water-short communities of the eastern Navajo Nation have set their sights on the San Juan to quench their thirst.
# The Navajo Nation is looking to the San Juan for water to meet the tribe’s water rights under federal laws that give Indians water to irrigate their reservations.