Sense of urgency palpable as #ColoradoRiver conference closes — KUNC #crwua2021 #COriver #aridification

Minute 323 environmental section signing. Photo credit: Colorado River Water Users Association

From KUNC (Alex Hager and Nate Hegyi):

Scientists and state, federal and tribal officials expressed the need for swift action in the face of a mounting water shortage as a major conference about the Colorado River wrapped up in Las Vegas Thursday [December 16, 2021]…

If severe drought conditions persist, one the region’s largest sources of hydropower, the Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell, could stop producing power as early as next summer, according to recent federal projections. The dam provides electricity to millions of users in the West. If it fails authorities will need to find other sources to replace that power, which could raise costs for homes and businesses.

Some states did agree to a new deal that will keep more water in Lake Mead, but leaders, including Assistant Interior Secretary Tanya Trujillo, acknowledged the region needs more substantial changes…

Some scientists and tribal officials said incremental changes in managing the river’s water supply are woefully insufficient and called for immediate and wide-ranging conservation measures.

“We have to think swiftly,” said Crystal Tulley-Cordova, principal hydrologist for the Navajo Nation. “Otherwise, we will continue to be in the situation that we are in, or even in worse circumstances.”

Next year officials will begin negotiating new rules for managing the river…

Dwight Lomayesva, vice chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Arizona, said his tribes do have a seat at the table this time around and will attend meetings next spring. But he’s also skeptical about how much of a voice Indigenous people will have.

“We’re always a victim of a lot of promises but no results,” he said. “That’s been our history, so it’s kind of a wait and see right now.”

The Colorado River Indian Tribes have some of the most senior water rights in the Colorado River Basin.They’ve been fallowing fields in an effort to conserve water, which is costing the tribes an estimated $25 million in crop losses. They are also supporting federal legislation that would allow them to lease some of their water to cities or towns off reservation that are suffering shortages.

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