While Professor Shulman makes a valid point that immigration is one cause behind Colorado’s population growth, his pugilistic attempt to turn the discussion of water use into a debate over immigration is both misleading and irresponsible; he is simply searching for an argument where there is none.
Shulman claims “the reason that the U.S. population and the Colorado population are growing so rapidly is mass immigration.” While immigration is one cause, it is not the only cause, as Shulman insinuates. The population of Larimer County is 87.5 percent white non-Hispanic, as opposed to 8.3 percent Hispanic (www.co.larimer.co.us). The U.S. birth rate is 14.14 births per 1,000 people, as opposed to the net immigration rate of 3.18 migrants per 1,000 people (CIA Fact Sheet).
If Larimer County has a white non-Hispanic population more than 10 times that of the Hispanic population, and the birth rate is more than four times the immigration rate, then childbirth among white non-Hispanics accounts for a much greater percentage of population growth.
In 2005, 2,271 residential dwellings were constructed in Larimer County, at an average cost of $195,400 per dwelling, well above what a migrant worker could possibly afford. These homes were constructed primarily for “natives,” as Shulman calls them (www.co.larimer.co.us). The crux of all this is that there is most definitely an influx of growth into Larimer County other than immigrants.
The issue of housing takes the blame off immigrants as a main source of water consumption, due to the fact that many immigrants live in trailer parks and apartments. The water usage of a 1000-square-foot dwelling is extremely low; add to that low usage the fact that many dwellings are, at times, shared by multiple families, and the water usage per capita plummets even lower. Also, most trailer parks and apartment complexes have little or no turf grass area, which constitutes a large portion of domestic and municipal water use. Contrast the living conditions of most migrant workers with that of a “native” with average household size of 2.52 people per house, over 3000 square feet of dwelling space, as well as a large turf area, and the amount of water used by migrants compared to “natives” is skewed heavily toward “natives.”
The issue of water usage by migrant workers is further compounded by the fact that many migrant workers are only in Colorado for a few months out of the year; they move from state to state with seasonal job opportunities. The net effect of all this is that migrant workers can be included in the population count, but their actual water usage in the state is severely limited by the time spent here, relative to a full-time resident of the state.
The last point that Shulman glosses over is the fact that agriculture currently constitutes 91 percent of the water use in Colorado, with 86 percent projected for the year 2030 (CSU Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Economic Development Report, 2005).
Even with Shulman’s alleged massive influx of immigrants, their meager water usage constitutes a drop in the bucket of domestic water use, while leaving agricultural use completely unaffected.
As an esteemed member of our university, Professor Shulman has an obligation to be fair and logical in his arguments. His repeated and diversionary attempts to steer otherwise unrelated discussions back to the topic of immigration is both misleading and irresponsible.
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