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Draining the West? Tough questions and possible answers
FocusWest brought together a forum of leaders, experts, and interested citizens to discuss water use in our region. Over the course of a two hour session at the studio of KAID, Idaho Public Television in Boise, a number of themes significant to all of us who live and work in the west emerged.
* So many uses of our water -- for people, for crops, for wildlife, for electricity, for industry, to preserve a culture -- does one use take precedence over another? And must our use of water for one purpose make it unavailable for other purposes?
* "First in Use" water law has created transferable rights for using the water that flows in rivers and streams. Do these rights to water use stand in the way of resolving our problems in allocating the available water? Can we leave it to market forces to make it evident which uses of water our society thinks are the most important?
* Water in the west is certainly instrumental in supporting industry and life, but the water that flows in rivers and gathers in lakes also has an integral role in Native American culture and ways of life.
* Do existing laws, regulations, and practice offer the flexibility to meet new demands for water? Surprisingly, many people involved in the issues think so.
* Is there any way to right past injustices or mistakes? Where does equity fit into the western water equation?
* What does it take to see that the conflicts involved in meeting new needs for western water are resolved? Is this something that ordinary citizens can influence? Is action by state legislature needed?