The ‘State of the Rockies Report Card’ is hot off the press

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Here’s the announcement from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project:

This 2012 State of the Rockies Report Card is titled The Colorado River Basin: Agenda for Use, Restoration, and Sustainability for the Next Generation. The sections of the Report Card include a summary of the Rockies Project Source to Sea trip, an investigation into the Colorado River’s many diversions and uses, and an assessment of the “Law of the River,” among many other topics.

The Rockies Project aims to inspire Report Card readers and Rockies events attendees to creatively contemplate, discuss, and engage in shaping the future of our beloved, beautiful, and fragile region-the Rocky Mountain West. Enjoy!

Here’s the first installment of a three-part series analyzing the report from Walt Hecox (director of the project) writing in the Mountain West News. From the article:

Colorado College’s 2012 State of the Rockies Report Card is dedicated to a single topic of vital interest: the past development, present condition, and future options for the Colorado River Basin. We add a special dimension: the perspectives of today’s youth who will become tomorrow’s Basin users and stewards.

Competing interests for water rights and a dwindling supply of the vital natural resource have created challenges for the Colorado River Basin, which stretches across portions of seven Southwestern states. Some experts predict that by 2050, climate change and burgeoning uses of the river system will result in inadequate water to meet all of the shares allocated for municipal, agricultural, industrial and wildlife use, two-thirds to nine-tenths of the time.

But such a crisis can be averted, if actions are taken now, according to findings from this year’s State of the Rockies Project.

Conducted by students and faculty at The Colorado College in Colorado Springs, each year a research project is undertaken to increase public understanding of issues affecting the environment and economy of the Rocky Mountain region.

This year’s topic of study: The Colorado River Basin. Student researchers spent last summer and the 2011-2012 academic year analyzing the 1,400-mile waterway, wrote sections of the Report Card on critical dimensions, and recommended five action steps so that a viable, living Colorado River Basin exists, even thrives for the next generation. Their work was unveiled and the Report made public during the April 9-10 State of the Rockies Project Conference.

Held at Colorado College, the conference not only unveiled the report but also featured as guest speakers U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who discussed the challenges of saving the river basin now and in the future. And Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed what future generations can do to manage the state’s water resources.

More coverage from R. Scott Rappold writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

The conference is an annual exercise for students to study an environmental issue facing the West. This year’s event focused on the Colorado River, the source of 80 percent of Colorado Springs’ water. [Interior Secretary Salazar] said the interstate compacts that delineate how the water is shared are flawed, and scientists overestimated the flow of the river by up to 2 million acre feet, using data from only recent wet years, not drier times…

Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, also spoke Monday. She said records from tree rings show periods of long droughts, slow to arrive and slow to lift, some lasting 28 years. So the snowy 2010-11 winter may have been the anomaly, and this winter may be the eventual norm. “The record shows the Colorado plateau, as far back as recent centuries, is pretty much drier than what we as Americans have experienced,” McNutt said…

McNutt quoted explorer John Wesley Powell, who urged that water rights to the river be left in the hands of small water districts, advice that was ignored. “You saw what has happened to the Colorado River. It no longer reaches the ocean,” she said.

Here’s a Q&A session with McNutt and Salazar from the Huffington Post:

Salazar: “When we look at the economy and conservation, there are those who would have us choose between them and I think that’s a false choice. We can do both conservation and energy development and good economics in a way that we have done here in Colorado — Great Outdoors Colorado is one of the great examples where we’ve been able to improve the quality of life here, and those are the kinds of things that I think are good for job creation and also good for conservation.

More State of the Rockies Project coverage here. More Colorado River basin coverage here.

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