The Colorado River and its future imbalances were the focus of a Senate hearing in Washington DC yesterday. The river supplies water for cities and farms in seven states and parts of Mexico. Lawmakers went over a 2012 study that projects water demand will outpace supply in the coming decades. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.
The research findings are troubling. The Colorado River Basin Water Demand and Supply Study projects an imbalance in the River by 2060. By then, demand will be greater than the river’s water supply by as much as 3.2 million acre-feet. A single U-S household uses about one acre-foot of water a year.
“At some point soon, there will not be enough water to meet the demands of the almost 40 million people who depend on the Colorado River basin for drinking water, agriculture, energy, hydropower, recreation, ecosystem and wildlife values.”
That’s Senator Mark Udall of Colorado who called the hearing meant to keep debate going about the study and to explore solutions to the predicted shortage. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agreed the problem needs attention.
Possible solutions under discussion include water banking, or moving water meant for farms to cities, temporarily. There were also calls for more conservation measures taken by cities and towns, taking advantage of high flow years and more storage of water.
Don Ostler is with the Upper Colorado River Commission.
“No single strategy will solve our vulnerability by itself. We need to implement a portfolio of actions in order to address and reduce the vulnerability of this entire basin to shortage.”
A persistent problem is funding. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor told the senators the fund that helped pay for the Colorado River study faces deep cuts under a bill passed by the House recently.
“Overall the house bill would cut Water Smart by 53 percent. This action undermines the federal government's ability to partner with basin states and local communities on critical investments that are needed to address water resource issues and improve the resilience of the basin against climate related impacts.”
The Colorado River Basin is in the midst of a 14-year drought. Connor fears climate change will only exacerbate the situation. Three work groups formed earlier this year will investigate additional solutions to looming water shortages.