We need to find our way with water use

Have you ever gotten really lost? I’m not talking about a wrong turn. Getting really lost usually requires some effort, like thinking you’re going the right way for so long that when you finally realize you made a mistake, it may be too late. It happens all too often, to people as well as cultures. When it comes to water, our culture has yet to realize its mistakes.

We have managed to marginalize one of our most vital resources, turning it into an industrialized commodity to divert, drain, pump, flush, import, irrigate, waste, evaporate, pollute and, last but not least, to sell.

Water is at the center of everything we do, yet we treat it as if there was an unlimited, unending supply — even here in the Mojave Desert. Economics, arcane laws and industrialization have replaced common sense and respect for the natural world as our compass. If we are ever to get back on a sustainable track with water, it will require the adoption of new (and some ancient) ideas, techniques and a commitment to reconnect with nature. Fortunately, there is an upcoming opportunity to learn how we can begin to achieve it.

When it comes to dealing with water in dry environments, I know of no one wiser than Brad Lancaster, an expert on localized water harvesting and use. He is the author of two best-selling, award-winning books, “Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond,” volumes 1 and 2, and creator of the excellent website www.HarvestingRainwater. com. I have read all three and there are no better resources on the topic.

The bad news is that he lives in Tucson, another desert community far to the south. The good news is that on June 22 he will be conducting a full-day seminar in Las Vegas that will explore alternative ways to manage our most valuable resource. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Downtown Project Construction Zone. The seminar is hosted by Great Basin Permaculture, a local nonprofit organization whose name says it all, almost. You can register for Lancaster’s seminar on its website, www.GreatBasinPermaculture.org.

The concept of permaculture, or permanent culture, is vitally important to our future. It is about living in harmony with our environment, enriching rather than depleting the soil as well as our lives, while promoting balance and localized solutions to many of our most pressing issues, including climate change, peak oil, our food supply and, of course, water. Southern Nevadans are fortunate to have such a valuable local resource and I’ll be writing more about Great Basin Permaculture in the coming months.

For now, I’ll simply thank them for bringing Mr. Lancaster to town. His presentations are filled with impeccable logic and simplicity, great conceptual illustrations and sprinkled generously with wit and humor. I urge you to register for this day of valuable education. Real change happens when enough people get involved so please share this with your friends and neighbors since the topic is germane to all.

I’m also hoping to see a veritable bevy of government officials, water authority personnel and other decision-makers in attendance. One might say it would border on negligence to miss out on this low-cost opportunity to learn alternative methods for improving our community and quality of life far into the future, while avoiding spending billions of dollars on industrial-scale water importation projects that will only lead us further down the wrong path. When it comes to the reality of water in the desert, it would be wonderful to find our way again.

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Rypka, visit www.greendream.biz.

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