Sustainable development on the Rio Grande

Your May 21 article "Rio Grande - now a river to nowhere" clearly illustrates the problem of water in the Lower Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Basin, exacerbated by the current drought. It is sobering to imagine a similar drought occurring 30 years from now, when the region's rapidly growing population will have doubled again.

However, you missed what is perhaps the key point: Human use, not drought, is at the heart of the river's problems. Tremendous volumes of Rio Grande water are diverted from the river, primarily to irrigate crops and meet municipal demand. This use has been placing unprecedented stress on the river, even in years when rainfall has been good. And once diverted, large amounts of river water are lost to inefficient irrigation practices, leaks in canals and pipes, and wasteful use in cities.

Recent research on water, development, and the environment on the Lower Rio Grande has found that the future of the region fundamentally depends on using existing river water more effectively. As an example of how more can be done with less, a modest 9 to 17 percent reduction in water used by agriculture would free up enough to meet the demands of a doubled population.

Numerous irrigation technologies already exist that can achieve these water savings in agriculture without reducing the amount of crops produced. With less wasteful management and use, the Rio Grande can adequately supply municipal, industrial, and agricultural water users, while at the same time meeting vital ecological needs. In short, although droughts will continue to cause hardship in the region, weather is not the primary issue - water management is.

Mitchell L. Mathis The Woodlands, Texas Mitchell Ctr. for Sustainable Development

Bankers' beef with "Boardwalk"

It's tough to take your May 23 editorial "Bankers on boardwalk?" seriously. You question bankers' motives in wanting to offer real estate brokerage, yet you fail to ask the equally tough question: Why does the National Association of Realtors (NAR) want to keep bankers out of real estate?

This is not about banks versus real-estate interests. It's about giving the homebuyer the widest possible selection of competitive rates, financing options, and brokerage services. It hardly makes sense that real-estate firms like Century 21, Coldwell Banker, and Long & Foster already provide the very same services - brokerage, mortgage lending, title insurance and property insurance - that bankers are seeking to provide. If real-estate companies can finance homes, why can't banks sell them? That's what financial modernization is all about.

Nearly 3 in 4 consumers in an ABA survey (available on our website at www.aba.com) felt that banks should be allowed to offer real estate brokerage. The Monitor may be convinced that the cost of finding and buying a home today is low enough, but consumers apparently aren't. Nearly 70 percent of them felt that their real estate costs would be lower if there were more choices for brokerage services. Let's see what adding some genuine competition can do to bring those costs down. It's time for a change.

Donald G. Ogilvie Washington American Bankers Association

I agree with your premise that consolidation and aggregation of businesses is not in the public's best interest. However, you didn't mention the other side: that all major real estate agencies operate their own mortgage companies. When it comes to "getting in on the ground floor" with the homebuyer, this situation is hardly a level playing field.

For home buyers who are tired of the corporate greed and truly interested in serving their own and the public's long-term interests, they have a choice: borrow from their local mutual (depositor-owned) bank.

Christine Grundy Whitman, Mass. Mutual Federal Savings Bank

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must include your name and mailing address; only a selection can be published. Mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or e-mail oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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