I love the state of Michigan.
And it’s not just because I grew up (or should I say survived) in this state as the only Michigander among a bunch of heathen West Virginians.
Sure, that was tough sledding at times. They do go on and on about their mountains and their country roads. So John Denver wrote a song about their state. So what? As far as I’m concerned, they need to get over it. Mountain mama, indeed.
My kinfolk came to Michigan from West Virginia because this was the place where they could find good jobs and get great educations. It still is.
If you look around the country, state by state, residents from all those other 49 states can find something to brag about. But notice, too, that when it’s time for many of them to go somewhere special to kick back and relax, they come here.
So it mystifies me, when people in Michigan start looking for another place to live, many of them head South or West. I figure a warmer climate is one consideration. Taxes may be another. Family or friends who live nearby in those places are likely an incentive, too.
Decades ago, the choices as far as where to live in this country were unlimited — or at least they must have seemed so to the people who had the wherewithal and the freedom to make those decisions.
But something happened recently that makes this subject — where people choose to live — even more perplexing. Alarming, in fact.
I’m talking about the Rio Verde Foothills outside Scottsdale, Arizona.
The Washington Post reported a week ago that, on Jan. 1, the city of Scottsdale, which gets the majority of its water from the Colorado River, cut off Rio Verde Foothills from the municipal water supply it had relied on for decades.
After they run out of the supplies they have stored in tanks and buckets, about 1,000 residents don’t know where they’re going to get their water. This situation is being called a worst-case scenario of the ongoing drought out West. But it’s not likely to be the only one.
National Geographic has a wonderful multimedia story about the Colorado River, calling it “The American Nile.” “The Colorado River and its dozens of spectacular tributaries carved out the Grand Canyon and scoured the Rockies, flushing mineral-rich sediment to the sea,” that account describes. “These rivers weren’t always in flood, but they never ran dry. Today, however, the second largest tributary, the Gila, is mostly bone dry in its lower reaches through Arizona.”
Roughly 40 million people across the West rely on the Colorado River for water.
We have so much water in Michigan we can’t conceive of not having enough. Our overriding concern, for the most part, is clean water.
Yet, given these extremes in our country, what happens if the situation becomes so dire that states without water look to those with an abundant supply?
Diversion of water from the Great Lakes is prohibited by law, which impacts Canadians provinces as well as the Great Lakes states. That’s a relief.
I can’t account for folks who left Michigan to go live in a desert. They like arid climates, I guess. And some will likely say these ignoramuses moved to a state with no water, so that’s their fault. But the situation is far more complicated than that and everything, ultimately, is connected in these — as we affectionately call them — United States.
In Michigan, we need to develop a comprehensive water use policy that includes many scenarios and addresses water pollution and sewage treatment. The confluence of state, county and township control of these issues needs to be clearly spelled out. It can’t be piecemeal.
Whether we like it or not, Arizona’s problem is ours, too. At least we can learn from it – all the more reason to get cracking on strategies to help shore up our own water weaknesses.
As a part of that, whatever we can do to help our friends and family members in Arizona, we do to help ourselves.
I figure anything we learn from getting water out of a rock in the Sonoran Desert will, ultimately, give us the know-how we’ll need when we settle a colony on Mars.