Letters to the Editor. When rain falls not . . .

Thank you for your recent series on one of the most important issues for agriculture, industry, cities, and wilderness of our time: the future use and quality of the water supply. As a native Tucsonan, I have seen the bloom of desert urban areas and the problems they face when dealing with water. The first article of the series, ``Use begins to shift from farmland to cities'' (Aug. 26), states that an important and likely solution to the water shortage will come from managing it as a commodity. Adjusting rates and allowing ``market forces'' to rule availability of water would then redirect necessary supplies from, say, agricultural areas to cities. However, there are serious problems in the long run with this kind of market orientation.

The problem arises when land and other natural resources are appreciated only as useful commodities. The earth is no simple machine that can be fixed or treated for minor mechanical malfunctions. We are realizing that deforestation and desertification, crop failures and water depletion in the aquifers, are not problems that can be isolated from each other.

Water, among other resources, must be thought of in terms of its place in a natural system if we wish to preserve it, and ourselves, within the system. This means weighing the results of our actions upon the system against the immediate benefits we see. In the case of water in the Southwest, we should consider how much continued growth of urban areas can be supported by existing water supplies, how agriculture can conserve water and how industry can best manage its consumption within the limits provided

by nature. In this way the emphasis changes from use (or abuse) to maintenance of the supply, and, ultimately, to the extended life and well-being of man and nature. Timothy Forker Brooklyn

The article about Tucson, Ariz., ``Giving up green lawns for cacti, wildflowers'' Aug. 27, might have implications for drought-ridden countries. In some areas of the US, there is never any rain, or it rains very seldom; but the people devise means to provide the water necessary for a normal life.

Would rich nations sponsor and finance projects to get water to drought-stricken lands? Examples: Maintaining large water tanks supplied by ``imported,'' sterilized water; developing irrigation projects; reclaiming water, and so forth. Esther G. Stone Columbus, Ohio

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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