Letter to the Editor: Rube Goldberg comes to save county water crisis

"Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin," a cartoon by Rube Goldberg illustrating overly complicated machinery, 1931 | Public domain image, St. George News

OPINION — I recently watched a YouTube video of the world’s largest Rube Goldberg Machine. Rube Goldberg Machines are designed to accomplish seemingly simple tasks in the most complex way possible. In this video, for example, the designers of the machine pressed a button and a ball emerged from a mechanical chicken which triggered all kinds of bells and whistles. After four minutes of machinery, a flying package bumped a snowman-bearing sled which then slid into a button to turn on the town’s Christmas tree.

I don’t know why I love watching these things. They’re so complex, so extravagant, so long. I’m a millennial; I’m not supposed to know what delayed gratification is. Yet still, I’m drawn to them.

On another note, Washington County is the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan area. There are currently 165,000 people living in Washington County, and that number is expected to increase to 500,000 by 2065. While this is excellent for industry and the local economy, we now have a water crisis on our hands. With current projections, we will be out of water very soon.

A proposal called the Lake Powell Pipeline would supplement Washington County water by pumping it here through all kinds of “bells and whistles” in 140 miles of pipe. The project would cost $1.1-$1.8 billion dollars, but it’s worth it because now the future is secured for our children, right?

In my mind, the Lake Powell Pipeline is a giant Rube Goldberg machine. I’m not saying it’s stupid. I’m not saying those who are for it are stupid. I want to see a booming industry and a flourishing economy. I’m a land surveyor; my livelihood literally depends on population growth. I find it incredible that we have come so far as a species that such a huge venture is feasible.

But is it the best way to solve the water crisis? It seems so complex, so extravagant, so long. Would we damage the Colorado River ecosystem? How much would we be willing to pay for this new water? Would property taxes inflate so much that nobody will want to move here? Could we ensure a prosperous future without stealing the title of the world’s largest Rube Goldberg Machine?

I think we can. The per capita water consumption in Washington County is at 325 gallons per day. Compare this to Las Vegas at 219 gallons per day and Tucson at a whopping 80 gallons per day and you might see the solution to the water crisis isn’t 140 miles away, but in our own homes.

Why are we using so much more water than our neighbors? What would it take to reduce our water consumption to levels more like Tucson? There are alternative plans out there. My favorite is called the Local Waters Alternative by the Western Resource Advocates. Look it up! Or look up other alternatives. I can tell you this: the other options would cost a lot less than a billion dollars.

Submitted by ANDREW THOMAS. Thomas is a Utah native who studied Geology and Environmental Sciences at Brigham Young University.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!