Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study Interim Report #1 is hot off the press

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Here’s the link to the webpage where you can download the report. Here’s a preview:

Spanning parts of the seven states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming (Basin States), the Colorado River Basin (Basin) is one of the most critical sources of water in the western United States (West). The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to over 30 million people for municipal use, supply water used to irrigate nearly 4 million acres of land, and are also the lifeblood for at least 15 Native American tribes, 7 National Wildlife Refuges, 4 National Recreation Areas, and 11 National Parks. Hydropower facilities along the Colorado River provide more than 4,200 megawatts of generating capacity, helping meet the power needs of the West and offset use of fossil fuels. The Colorado River is vital to Mexico to meet both agricultural and municipal water needs. It is essential to understand that the natural water supply of the Basin is highly variable year to year. The ability to capture water Basin-wide during years in which supply is greater than demand has resulted in meeting most of the resource needs throughout the 20th- century, although localized shortages routinely occur, particularly in the headwaters areas during times of drought.

Throughout the 20th-century, the challenges and complexities of ensuring a sustainable water supply and meeting future demand in the over-allocated Colorado River system have been recognized. These challenges have been systematically documented in studies conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Basin States over the past 60 years. Concerns regarding the reliability of the Colorado River system to meet the future needs of Basin resources1 in the 21st-century are heightened, given the likelihood of increasing demand for water throughout the Basin, coupled with projections of reduced supply due to climate change.

Funded through the Basin Study Program under the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Program, the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study (Study) is being conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado and Lower Colorado Regions and agencies representing the Basin States. The purpose of the Study is to define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Basin and the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water over the next 50 years (through 2060), and to develop and evaluate adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances. The Study contains four major phases to accomplish this goal: Water Supply Assessment, Water Demand Assessment, System Reliability Analysis, and Development and Evaluation of Opportunities for Balancing Supply and Demand.

The Study is being conducted in collaboration with stakeholders throughout the Basin whose participation and input are critical to the Study’s success. Interests are broad and include Native American tribes and communities, agricultural users, purveyors of municipal and industrial water, power users, and environmental groups. Through the Study’s outreach efforts, many interested parties have been involved and others are encouraged to do so. A variety of options for involvement exist and range from attending public meetings and informational webinars to participating directly in the development of work products through the Study’s technical sub-teams. Additional information is provided on the Study website at:

More coverage from The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Drought frequency and duration are expected to increase under a climate-change model, one of four different water supply scenarios used by the agency in an ongoing study of supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin. The report says projected changes in the basin include continued warming in the basin, along with snowpack decreases as more precipitation falls as rain. “Droughts lasting five or more years are projected to occur 40 percent of the time over the next 50 years” under the climate change assumption, the report says.

More coverage from Gretchen Weber writing for From the article:

In a statement Monday, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) applauded the study’s focus on potential climate change impacts, but urged the agency to find ways to address the supply/demand imbalance while still maintaining “healthy” river flows.

“The economic well-being of rural communities and major cities in the basin are inextricably linked to the environmental health of the Colorado River itself,” said EDF’s Rocky Mountain regional director, Dan Grossman. “And just as human health depends on healthy blood flow, the Colorado River’s health depends upon healthy water flows that are being compromised by current management practices and policies, as well as a warming climate.”

The next interim report is expected in the Fall of 2011, and a final report is due in July of 2012.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

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