Rivers Work Best When They’re Wet


dried river bed in Colorado |  © dalioPhoto

If passed, HR3189 will hurt fish and wildlife by leaving river beds dry | © dalioPhoto

The water supply system in the Colorado River Basin is near its breaking point. Despite an above normal snowpack in the Rockies, climate change and prolonged drought have sapped the once-vigorous Colorado River, threatening the water supply for 36 million people, 15% of the nation’s agriculture, and a $26 billion recreation economy. This isn’t a problem that a few good rain or snow storms will fix. Ongoing drought, combined with outdated water management, has created a crisis. Communities need to come together now to promote smarter ways of managing water.

That’s why it’s so disappointing to see Aspen join the Ski Industry’s lobbying group (the National Ski Areas Association, or NSAA) in supporting legislation that could dry up rivers, damage fish and wildlife habitat, and hurt fishing and boating, particularly when those resources are already so stressed by drought and climate change. The so-called “Water Rights Protection Act” (HR 3189) was introduced by Representatives Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Jared Polis (D-CO), ostensibly to address a disagreement between Colorado’s ski industry and the U.S. Forest Service that the Forest Service has already pledged to resolve. But the bill goes far beyond that narrow conflict, allowing private water users to dry up rivers on public lands with no regard for other uses or needs.

Thanks to Senator Mark Udall’s leadership, the Forest Service has already gotten out its scalpel to fix the Ski Industry’s issue. But the National Ski Areas Association – Aspen is a board member – has decided to use a sledgehammer instead. The so-called “Water Rights Protection Act” would allow private and public water users to continue drying up rivers on public lands with no regard for other needs. It would tie the hands of federal agencies responsible for managing water on our public lands. If passed, the bill would prevent agencies like the Forest Service from ensuring sufficient water flows in the nation’s rivers for fish, wildlife, and recreation. All over the State of Colorado, rivers without in-stream flow requirements dry up completely just about every year. This legislation could eventually make it easier for water that is so important to Colorado communities and their economies to be bought, sold, or leased through “buy and dry” schemes or diverted to thirsty Front Range communities.

That’s why more than sixty conservation and recreation organizations across the country have joined us in expressing strong opposition to this bill. We understand the Ski Industry’s concern about the disposition of their water rights. We are grateful that the U.S. Forest Service has committed to resolving this problem. What we don’t understand is why the National Ski Areas Association and Representatives Polis and Tipton continue to push a bill which will further strain Colorado’s fragile water resources. The NSAA and its member companies tout their “Sustainable Slopes” initiative and “Climate Challenge” on the front page of their website. They should extend this concern about the environment to Colorado’s rivers. We hope the ski industry can agree with us that rivers work better when they’re wet.

29 Responses to “Rivers Work Best When They’re Wet”

Nelson Denman

Thank you Senator Udall for your wise guidence in this matter.
Wake up ski industry people!
Everything is connected!
The more we conserve protect and restore our rivers and streams, the better off we all will be.
Thank you and best wishes,
Nelson

Gary Graves

Enough water to support natural habitats must be guaranteed to stay in rivers and streams. It is a public right, period, in my judgment. It can’t be siphoned off and sold to the highest bidder for human habitation or for agriculture. If there is not enough water for humans to coexist with fish and other wildlife, so be it. Humans will need to make the adaptation to accommodate wildlife.

Janet Bradley

It is hard to believe that people don’t understand priorities such as the need for sufficient water for humans and to sustain the environment/rivers/wildlife. Skiing is a wonderful sport, but not a priority. People often are very shortsighted. There will be consequences to this if they don’t wake up to the truth of the situation.

nelson Levings

HR 3189 does not address the water problems in Colorado – HR 3189 is irresponsible & destructive.

Please oppose it.

    Clotilda G. Devlin

    Please tell Aspen and ski not to deprive those who truly need the Colorado river and the fish.

Grace Adams

I wonder if either piping water from Alaska to upper Colorado river basin or putting a big desalination plant at north end of Gulf of California and piping desalinated water up from there would help.

    Pudgy Raymond

    Amen to that – it’s ruining the rivers and streams in Pennsylvania.

Marilyn

Tell us it isn’t so! How stupid can anyone be, and to think I used to enjoy going to Aspen. Being so self-centered doesn’t make sense because when the rivers go dry that will affect Aspen too. Their action is very short-sighted.

Marilyn

The Aspen board’s action is very short-sighted and doesn’t make much sense. When the rivers go dry that will have an adverse effect on Aspen.

Marilyn Mason

The Aspen board’s action is very short-sighted and doesn’t make sense. When the rivers go dry that will have an adverse effect on Aspen.

Timothy Shanahan

I sometimes have to wonder what kind of lunatics come up with these screwy laws.

    plages

    “I sometimes have to wonder what kind of lunatics come up with these screwy laws.”

    The same type of people who keep on electing these political greedy lunatics!

Shirley Beaupre

I continue to be disappointed when business puts making money before anything else they do.

George

Now is the time for Aspen’s board to jump on roller blading, like down the centerline of I-70

Judith Russo

It’s time to step back and take a real long unbiased look at where this legislation is taking us. Over use of our natural resources for the single purpose of tourism in Aspen will deplete our waters beyond recovery. This world has a finite amount of water.

    priscilla Bah

    I am concerned about all the water golf courses in dry land are using.
    Stop the expansion of golf courses where water is scarce.

Dorie Reisenweber

People before profit. Drinking water for all before a winter playground for a few. Please say no to HR 3189, the misleadingly named Water Rights Protection Act.

Betty Kelly

The Colorado River must be restored & cared for; if not the tourists will have nothing to see but dry river beds, dead vegitation & suffering humans.

Laurel Gress

The West is experiencing a period of extreme drought. This is no time for one industry to hog all the water.

Herman W. DeHoog

California is certainly learning that there is a finite amount of water. It is bad enough that nature itself does its own water redistribution. Human greed has no valid place in that unpredictable system, so stop fooling with “Mother Nature”.

Herman W. DeHoog

California is certainly learning that there is a finite amount of water. It is bad enough that nature itself does its own water redistribution. Human greed has no valid place in that unpredictable system, so stop fooling with “Mother Nature”.

NRGstein

I don’t see how this statute would stand up in court. I understand that water rights are dictated by state law, but this bill would seemingly impair valid contracts between federal agencies and private actors. The state legislature does not have that authority.

Chris Pozgar

What about Las Vegas?? All the ridiculous fountains, landscaping and hotels. Waste at the highest level.

tom murphy

our politicians need to stop taking bribes from special interest groups or get out – better yet we need to vote out the crooks and introduce bills that make it illegal to accept lobbyist money. revamp out government… before it’s too late.

mickeypamo

I suggest we slowly dismantle all the dams, without harming anyone, and get out of the way of water’s natural flow underground to be cleansed and follow the most efficient route to the sea. Yes, agriculture would be irrigated (with fewer or no pesticides).
We have clogged the veins of Mother Earth in thousands of US and world Dams.
Let the water flow
Keep the water flowing
Let the salmon swim
Keep the salmon swimming

Ray Bondorew(Raysfly.com)

Perhaps the ski industry and others if they tried really hard could learn something from the following:
“The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
― Chief Seattle

I might add that rivers are truly our life’s blood!