A million years ago the great ice sheets carved two immense, spectacular valleys our of solid rock. Both valleys would come to be inhabited by man over thousands of years. One valley, Yosemite, was in time designated as a National Park. The other, equally as beautiful and just north of Yosemite, is called Hetch Hetchy and, since 1923 when the O’Shaughnessy Dam was built across its narrow access, remains under 300 feet of water. Indeed, the Tuolumne River and its tributaries collect pristine snowmelt water from the ancient mountains. The water is shunted to San Francisco and surrounding areas and is their primary water source. Now a fight is brewing between those who would like to see the Dam opened and Hetch- Hetchy restored, in part, to its natural grandeur, pitted against those who see an established, continuing long term water source for a growing population.
I think it can safely be said that we humans cannot live without clean water to drink, without water for irrigation, without water for industrial processes, etc. The battles over water have just begun, though many people are frightfully unaware of what is at stake, what hangs in the balance. If we deplete our surface and subsurface water resources beyond recovery, life as we know it will falter and possibly cease to exist. And yet, as humans we are torn between consumption and environmental conservation, almost moral decisions. Many more arguments and debates will take place over where our values lie. Can we find a way through all the questions? Can all the increasing water demands be met in a fashion that protects spaceship earth? Can we afford to ignore this issue?