KUER Reporter Kate Groetzinger produced a story recently headlined “A Year Apart: Tourism In Southern Utah Is Returning To Normal After a Rocky 12 Months.” She is one of few reporters paying attention to Moab, and she does good work, so I’m not going to rag on her.
The headline of the water story was “Moab May Be Running Out Of Water. That’s Prompting Residents To Rethink Conservation And Development.”
Moab is definitively not running out of water. We have so much water. We have the data and science to show that we have lots of water. It’s simply not true that Moab “may be running out of water.”
It is definitely true that residents are thinking about “conservation and development.” They are, in fact, thinking too austerely about it.
Water is what locals cite when they put a halt on hotel development. It is what locals cite when they want to stop a residential development. It is what locals cite when they want to stop anything in Moab.
The headline is wildly inaccurate. The story itself is fine — Kate talked to four great sources, and I just copied her sourcing when I wrote my own story.
I came to a totally different conclusion, and it is that Moab is not running out of water; it in fact could be using as much as double the amount it is currently using, and if it were to tap the Colorado River, it could use as much as it could handle because Utah has such a large, unused claim on the river.
There are problems with using the Colorado River for drinking water use. One is that the river is dirty. Plants don’t know the difference, which is why there’s an idea to put irrigators on river water and keep everyone else on groundwater.
However, if you want to get river water from the Colorado to a drinkable state, you need to do a bit of work to purify it.
Anyway, Groetzinger is doing good work, and these recent stories are studies in the importance of reading past the headline, but I think they are also studies in the importance of good headlines.