Interview: The Search for Sustainability in the #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver

Graphic via Holly McClelland/High Country News.

Here’s an interview with Doug Kenney from PPIC. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado River is a crucial water source for seven states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California) and Mexico, and like many shared rivers has its share of challenges. We talked to Doug Kenney—director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center research network―about balancing priorities in managing the river.

PPIC: What’s the basin’s biggest challenge currently?

DOUG KENNEY: That depends on what part of the basin you’re in and what sector you work in. There’s no shortage of things to worry about. Right now, most would probably say it’s the effort to maintain the levels of water stored in the big reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Those reservoirs provide a lot of benefits—drought protection, recreation, and hydropower—but only if they have enough water in them. They’re about half full right now, which is about as low as they can go before mandatory cuts in water deliveries—or curtailments—kick in. It’s a math problem, essentially—managing water coming in versus what’s going out. So far in this century, people have pulled more water out than consistently flows in. Obviously, that has to change.

The more chronic issue is that the Colorado has been treated more like a plumbing system than a river, so there’s been a lot of environmental damage to the river. The big environmental concerns in the basin are a result of reduced flows and some water quality issues, such as high salinity, loss of valuable sediments, and increased water temperatures. The real challenge is to remind people we’re talking about a river—the most important ecological resource of the southwest United States.

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