Here’s an appeal to the incoming administration and Congress to open their eyes to science and economics and pay attention to the need to solve supply problems in the Colorado River Basin from Anne Castle and Eric Kuhn writing in The Denver Post:
[The President-elect]…the new leaders in his administration, and the 115th Congress each have important roles to play in helping Colorado and the six other states of the Colorado River basin forge a path toward water security. The independent Colorado River Future Project recently spoke with water leaders across the basin to collect specific recommendations to the incoming administration concerning the issues that must be addressed immediately.
The Colorado River system is Colorado’s foundation and future. It has been estimated that the river helps to contribute $189 billion to the Colorado economy each year and supports more than two million jobs. Each and every sector of the economy is tied to the river, from real estate to health care to our growing information technology industry.
The river system is facing challenges never seen before. Years of drought and imbalance between supply and demand have taken their toll. We are on the brink of the first-ever water shortage declaration, which could mean significant reductions in deliveries to Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico as soon as 2018, as well as increased pressure on Lake Powell supplies in the very near future. In order to avoid crippling impacts to our shared regional economy, Colorado River water users across the West must come to grips with the limitations of the river’s supplies. This will require creative leadership, compromise, and new funding.
The lower basin states of Arizona, California, and Nevada must come to closure on a drought contingency plan to stabilize water levels at Lake Mead, and the United States must finalize an agreement with our neighbors in Mexico to provide for sharing of both shortages and surpluses on the river and encourage water conservation.
The upper basin states, including Colorado, must put in place water saving mechanisms to reduce the risk of significant shortages in the future. An essential component is expanded Federal funding to bring supply and demand into balance in the Colorado River system through voluntary and compensated conservation measures that protect senior water rights.
These are not partisan issues. Conserving our limited Western water supplies is a priority for citizens and elected officials and a vital underpinning to support economic stability for agriculture, businesses, and citizens. Water leaders stand ready to work together with [the President-elect]…the new leaders in his administration and the new Congress to craft viable solutions and sustain this jewel and economic engine of the Southwest.
R. Eric Kuhn is the general manager for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Anne Castle directs the Colorado River Future Project.