More than 80 percent of Hispanic voters in the western United States think conservation measures are the best way to address water shortages, an expert in public water-usage policies told Efe.

That was one of the results of a survey carried out Sept. 22-Oct. 4 in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, according to Jorge Figueroa, a policy analyst with Western Resource Advocates and a member of the Nuestro Rio (Our River) coalition.

In the specific case of Colorado, Figueroa said that since 2008 the state's 5.1 million residents are consuming more water than the amount found naturally in Colorado. And the situation is getting worse, since another 2.5 million people are expected to settle in Colorado over the next 40 years.

"Latinos understand that there's no need to take water from the Colorado River, nor to use water stored in artificial lakes. In fact we have all the water we need, if we regulate its consumption and consume it moderately," Figueroa said.

That means, he said, recycling water whenever possible, such as in car washes and watering golf courses, reducing consumption and sharing its use between cities and agricultural areas.

"Eventually, perhaps in the next 20 years, we'll all be paying the real price of access to water, which today costs us nothing because it's highly subsidized," Figueroa said.

"Poor communities will be the most affected. That's why public water policies are problems of social justice. As Hispanics, we know how to live within our means," he said.

The survey by Nuestro Rio, an organization dedicated to preserving the healthfulness of the Colorado River basin, also showed that 90 percent of the 1,200 Latino voters believe it's up to the government to care for rivers and lakes and, in general, to protect the environment.

For Figueroa, doing nothing about the growing water shortage in the west and southwest of the United States is "something morally repugnant," since that attitude means leaving to their fate numerous communities, many of them Hispanic, whose culture and traditions are intertwined with the water, as in the case of communities that depend on the Colorado River.

The solution, he said, will come from the science studying the causes and effects of climate change and from techological breakthroughs that allow water consumption to be regulated and maximized, as well as by ending dependency on fossil fuels and starting to use renewable energy seriously.

"We're still not doing all we should to avoid the catastrophe that we ourselves are creating," Figueroa said.

"To avoid the climate catastrophe, we have to think as a species. We must make the transition to clean energy. Within 50 years, 80 percent of our energy should be clean. And if we don't do it, what will happen? Let's just remember that the resource that suffers the greatest impact from climate change is water," he said. EFE