September 10 seminar highlights water connections from Colorado to California — Hannah Holm

Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015
Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

As California has sunk deeper into drought over the past several years, Colorado has mostly climbed out after the back-to-back dry winters of 2012 & 2013. At this point, Colorado is officially drought-free except for small patches with “abnormally dry” conditions in the northwestern and southwestern corners.

Because Colorado’s snowpack and water use affect water supplies downstream aligning supply and demand in Arizona, Nevada and California continues to be a struggle. Inevitably Colorado will face repercussions upstream in the headwaters of the great Colorado River.

The Colorado River District is providing an excellent opportunity to learn about these hydrologic and policy connections from some of the top minds in western water at its annual seminar September 10 in Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Convention Center. The theme of the seminar is “Will what’s happening in California stay in California?”

Starting off at 9am, climate researcher Klaus Wolter will discuss the climate conditions that have led to the 15-year southwestern drought that has helped drop the reservoirs of Lake Mead and Powell to historic lows.

On the policy front, former Las Vegas water czar Pat Mulroy will discuss why the impacts of water challenges along the Colorado will flow upstream as well as downstream. Jennifer Gimbel, Principal Deputy Secretary for Water and Science for the U.S. Department of the Interior and former Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will provide a federal perspective on the regional drought and efforts to address the low levels in Lakes Mead and Powell.

Over lunch, longtime environmental reporter John Fleck will take time out from writing his book on the Colorado River to discuss the capacity of the Colorado River Compact to flex to address new realities of supply and demand. Bringing the focus back upstream, Colorado River District leaders Eric Kuhn and Dan Birch will then argue that Western Coloradans need to worry more about protecting existing uses in the face of drought than a big new project to take water east of the Continental Divide.

The final two speakers, Ken Nowak with the Bureau of Reclamation and Astor Boozer with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will discuss trends, opportunities and challenges associated with agricultural water conservation, efficiency and transfers to urban areas. The seminar will conclude at 3:30pm.

The cost for the seminar, including lunch, is $30 if you register by September 4, and $40 if you pay at the door. Students can attend for $10. Full details are at http://www.crwcd.org.

This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center at http://www.Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or http://www.Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.

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