From EarthJustice.org (Doug Pflugh):
We’re less than a month in, but 2014 is already shaping up to be a tough year for rivers. Across the nation, from West Virginia to California, the headlines have been bleak. In the Rocky Mountain region, we’re gearing up for a long year defending the Colorado and San Pedro rivers.
Following recognition as America’s most endangered river in 2013, the Colorado River has become known nationwide for the unsustainable balance that exists between increasing diversions and declining flows. Much of the West has been built on a foundation of Colorado River water and millions of people in communities throughout the region depend on it on a daily basis. On-going regional drought and continued growth are now finally forcing water supply managers to accept that business as usual is no longer tenable and changes are coming to the basin.
This year will see the first mandated reduction in flows from Lake Powell (upper basin) downstream to Lake Mead (lower basin). The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that oversees the Colorado River “system,” now reports that there are even odds that water from Lake Mead will be rationed by 2015—an outcome that may be predicated on this year’s snowfall.
Under the byzantine mechanism that is the Colorado River water supply system, water providers have grown accustomed to taking what they want, when they want. And even though the agreement that underlies the system, the Colorado River Compact, is based on a fundamental mistake—it allocated far more water than is actually available, even before considering what climate change will do to the river’s flows—making these minor changes has required historic and traumatic efforts.
In the face of the ongoing wrestling match over who gets what water from the Colorado River, Earthjustice and our conservation partners are working to keep water in the Colorado source-to-sea. It is imperative that we remember that the river is more than a sponge that can be wrung dry to meet our municipal, industrial and agricultural needs. The Colorado River is home to endangered species and the linchpin of a complex regional ecosystem supporting irreplaceable wildlife and natural communities. Arising in the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado and cutting across an arid region to the Gulf of California, this river is the lifeblood of its region like no other. The Colorado is also host to numerous recreational and economic opportunities, a vital element of our region, but only as long as it flows.