Colorado River basin: What should governance look like going forward?

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Update: Here’s a look at the Grand Valley and their take on Colorado River governance, from Honora Swanson writing for KJCT8.com. From the article:

A new report out shows that our state will need twice as much water in 2050 as we do right now. The Colorado River Conservation District Board estimates 10 million more people could come to Colorado in the next 40 years. And with those people, comes a big demand for water.

The article is about the SWSI 2010 Update released last Friday by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Here’s a look back at last month’s meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Conference with a bit of analysis of the basin thrown in, from Brett Walton writing for Circle of Blue Water News. From the article:

In Las Vegas last month, at the annual meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association—the only organization bringing together stakeholders from each of the seven basin states—opponents and supporters made their views known during a speech by Doug Kenney, the director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Kenney was invited to Caesar’s Palace to share the first-year findings from his study on water governance in the Colorado River Basin. His message: in a new era of water scarcity along the river—where supply and demand lines have already crossed—traditional water management practices will need to be fundamentally changed.

New options for managing the Colorado include establishing provisions for year-to-year agreements with states and farmers to avoid shortages. They also include improvements in the efficiency of river operations, or by river augmentation, which means adding new supplies from a slew of sources—some viable, some expensive, and some fanciful: desalination, river diversions, and weather modification, respectively.

Kenney’s governance study is just one of several such assessments—carried out by academics and federal agencies, as well as state and regional water management authorities—suggesting the need for new ways to manage water flows. The studies are providing a new legal and scientific foundation for defining existing water rights within states, clarifying laws and regulations about how shortages on the river would be handled, and evaluating options for increasing the basin’s water supply and reducing demand.

Kenney argued that the states of the upper basin—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming—are the most vulnerable if future flows are as low as predicted because the river’s legal structure gives priority to Mexico and the lower basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

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