As Drought Looms, Water Management Could Become Game of Hardball between Stakeholders


Fisher towers reflected in the Colorado River, Arches National Park | © Ian Parker

Fisher towers reflected in the Colorado River, Arches National Park | © Ian Parker

Senate Subcommittee Examines Colorado River Basin and Future Water Supply amidst deadly wildfires, a record-breaking heat wave and worsening drought conditions in the Southwest.

The Senate Water and Power Subcommittee is holding a hearing this week to discuss the future of one of the West’s most critical natural resources – the Colorado River. The hearing comes on the heels of recent deadly wildfires, a record-breaking heat wave and worsening drought conditions in the Southwest that have put the region’s residents, wildlife and natural resources at risk.

The Subcommittee will examine the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Water Demand and Supply Study, which provides an important look at the costs and benefits of a range of proposals to ensure the region has enough water to support its economy, environment and quality of life.

The study concluded to meet the basin’s current water demands, let alone support future demand increases. The study also concluded that climate change will reduce water available from the Colorado River by nine percent, increasing the risk to cities, farms and the environment. Studies by independent scientists suggest that the impacts of climate change on the Colorado River’s flow could be dramatically higher.

Now, more than ever, it is time for stakeholders to come together and find solutions to this looming crisis. This study serves as a call to action and underscores the importance of prioritizing innovative conservation solutions rather than resorting to costly pipelines, dams and other diversions. We need to step up our efforts and manage our water wisely in order to meet the current and future needs in the basin.”

Thirty-six million people from Denver to Los Angeles drink Colorado River water. The river irrigates nearly four million acres of land, which grows 15 percent of the nation’s crops. Over-allocation and drought have placed significant stress on water supplies and river health, and the basin is facing another severe drought this summer. Lower river flows threaten endangered fish and wildlife, along with the $26 billion dollar recreation economy that relies on the Colorado River.

Without healthy rivers, the region’s economic vitality and its rich natural heritage are at risk. Drought sets the stage for conflict between water users. But the Basin Study seeks a path where municipalities and the agricultural and environmental communities can find practical solutions to the water supply and demand challenge.

The hearing will be live webcasted here.

For more information about American Rivers’ 2013 Most Endangered Rivers report, visit: www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers