After a 20-year long drought, the Federal government has finally declared a water shortage in the Colorado River. Over the past two decades, the drought has dried up the region and is now the new reality for the 7 states that rely on this water. It is time to adapt as the hydrology today is much different than it was years ago.
The Importance of the Colorado River
The Colorado River is an important component of the water supply for the western United States. Here are the facts:
- Over 40 million people rely on the water that flows from the Colorado River.
- The Colorado River supports $1.4 trillion in annual economic activity and 16 million jobs in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.
- 3.2 million acres within the Colorado basin and 2.5 million acres outside of it are irrigated by water from the Colorado River.
To ensure equitable division and apportionment of the use of the waters of the Colorado River system, the Colorado River Compact was born.
The Original Compact
- The original Colorado River Compact was created 100 years ago between Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and Nevada.
- The Compact split the 7 states into the Upper Basin and the Lower Basin and created frameworks for management of the river.
- The frameworks were based on the 1922 annual flow rate of 16.4 million acre-feet which was later revised to 13.5 million acre-feet.
CONGRESSIONAL ACTION IN NOVEMBER 2021
After the $1.2 trillion infrastructure investment bill passed by the U.S. House, there will be $8.3 billion allocated to water infrastructure projects in the West. Read more about the projections of these projects here, and the pushback they may face.
The New Reality
With no action, here’s what the seven states reliant on the Colorado River Basin are facing:
- Lake Mead and Lake Powell are the biggest reservoirs in America. Both have reached their lowest levels since they were filled in the 1930s and 1960s.
- Both reservoirs have reached a dead pool level, unable to generate the hydro power we depend on.
- Come January, Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico will see cuts to their water supply, namely farmers in southwest Arizona seeing the brunt of the cuts.
- Since 2000, the overall flows of the Colorado River have declined by 20%.
- The overall temperatures in the West have risen significantly which has caused massive wildfires throughout the region.
Although it may seem that we are past the point of no return, there are solutions to curb the problem.
Some of our past clients have participated in voluntary pilot programs, as well as invested time and finances in technology, reclamation and restoration efforts, and other conservation initiatives to help conserve water levels.
Check out these articles for examples on what private landowners are successfully implementing:
TUNE IN: WATCH THE REBROADCAST
On November 10, 2021, at 7 pm EST, PBS NewsHour held a live forum, “Tipping Point: River on the Brink,” exploring how climate change is affecting the Colorado River Basin.
From the Walton Foundation:
“Hosted by PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien in Phoenix and sponsored by the Walton Family Foundation, the program will foster a solutions-based dialogue with thought leaders in science, agriculture, municipal water, Native American communities and conservation.
Supporting quality environmental reporting ensures the American public has facts on critical issues and elevates the voices of communities working on these issues – including solving the water crisis in the Colorado River Basin. The program featured Q&A portions and live questions from the audience. You can watch the recording of the November 10th broadcast here. “