The Colorado River Water Supply and Demand Study was released today after years of work. The study examines the entire Colorado River Basin across state and international lines, and looks to the future as we’re faced with population demands, changes in climate and other pressures on Western water supply.
The study found that there will not be enough water to meet all demand in the future. Within 50 years, the annual water deficit is expected to widen by more than 3 million acre-feet– with the gap growing as the population that depends on the river’s water grows. According to the Bureau of Reclamation:
[the study] defines current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin and the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water for approximately the next 50 years, and develops and analyzes adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances.
Many welcome the study. In a release issued by U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s office, Udall says that the study shows the need for Colorado and the Western United State to explore ways of better managing our water. Udall says:
“This report underlines that we must find creative and innovative ways to meet growing residential, agricultural and industrial demands for water while respecting the Law of the River.”
The Colorado River District also commends the study:
“The study confirms what we already understand: The Colorado River is already fully used,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “In the very near future, the demand for the river’s resources will far exceed the available supply. In order to meet the needs of people and aquatic‐dependent species and habitats, new ways of thinking and doing business will be essential.”
Others may see the same merit, but took the opportunity to highlight some of the more “far-fetched” ideas, submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and listed as solutions. From the Denver Post:
Importing water from the Missouri River to Colorado’s semi-arid Front Range has emerged as an option western states are considering to deal with increasing overuse of the Colorado River.
That diversion is listed as a long-term possibility after review of more than 100 sometimes far-fetched ideas submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Among them: “Towing an iceberg wrapped in some type of plastic to California and capturing the meltwater”; tapping the Mississippi River; and “filling large nylon water bags” in Alaska for distribution down south.
But among the many ideas and possible solutions– there must be something with potential. From a blog post by Taylor Hawes, The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River Program Coordinator:
Flexibility will be critical to adapting to a changing world. Below are some of the strategies identified in the study that I think are worth exploring and promoting:
Implementing new water-saving practices in farms and cities
Treating and recycling wastewater for irrigation and other uses
Retrofitting existing power plants with water-saving technologies
Restoring healthy river flows through better management of watersheds, river banks, dams and diversions
Building small de-salting plants to make groundwater locally available to towns and farms
- Plan to Pipe Missouri River Water to Colorado (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
- Water Piped West to Denver Could Ease Stress on Colo. River (nytimes.com)
- Colorado River U.S.-Mexico Agreement (yourwatercolorado.org)
- “Water Wranglers”: A Book Worth Wrangling (yourwatercoloradoblog.wordpress.com)
- Major pipeline among ideas for aiding arid West (rapidcityjournal.com)
- Interior issues options for shrinking Colorado River (utsandiego.com)
- New Urgency and Hope for the Colorado River (nature.org)