Dire Water Supply Forecast is Call to Action for Improving Colorado River ManagementAugust 16th, 2013
Matt Niemerski, 202-347-7550
Amy Kober, 503-708-1145
Washington – A major alarm bell for water supplies in the Colorado River Basin is expected this week, as the Bureau of Reclamation may, for the first time in history, say it needs to reduce the amount of water released from Lake Powell, the reservoir behind Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam. While the forecast raises the possibility of unprecedented water shortages in the coming years, American Rivers called it an opportunity to galvanize support for much-needed changes in river management.
American Rivers named the Colorado River the #1 Most Endangered River for 2013 because of the threat of outdated water management. 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. Lower river flows threaten endangered fish and wildlife, along with the $26 billion dollar recreation economy that relies on the Colorado River. Low flows also impact the ability of Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam to generate hydropower.
“The problem isn’t drought, and a big rain storm, or a heavy winter snow season won’t fix this. What we need are fundamental changes in how we manage water in the Colorado Basin,” said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers. “That means more water conservation and efficiency for farms and cities, and water-sharing measures like water banks to increase flexibility. This is the loudest wake-up call so far for Colorado Basin water supplies, and we hope it brings everyone together to get serious about solutions.”
The Colorado River District predicts that by September 30, reservoir storage in the Colorado River Basin will be at 49 percent of capacity — the first time that storage levels have fallen below 50 percent. According to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study (December 2012), there is not enough water in the Colorado River to meet the basin’s current water demands, let alone support future demand increases. Scientists predict that the Colorado River’s flow will be reduced by 10 to 30 percent by 2050.
“The Colorado River Basin Study predicted we would be facing these shortages in the coming decades, but few thought we would have to grapple with this crisis so soon,” Irvin added.
American Rivers urged Congress to fund federal programs that can assist cities and farms in getting smarter about managing their water supplies.