After last year’s strong snowpack in the Rocky Mountains brought much-needed relief to a rapidly declining Lake Mead, there was optimism that perhaps the devastating drought that has plagued the Colorado River for the past decade was drawing to a close. Unfortunately, this year’s record dry conditions — which have extended throughout much of the continental United States — have dashed those hopes. Just as we have seen through many periods of extended drought along the Colorado River, last year’s bounty appears to have been little more than an apparition, disappearing more quickly than snow on the majestic mountain peaks of Colorado and Wyoming.
If climate scientists are correct, the West has many more such periods ahead. This new reality will fundamentally change the way we manage this crucial resource. This challenge will require a more selfless and fully engaged level of collaboration among communities and states than ever before.