#ClimateChange Is Ravaging the #ColoradoRiver. There’s a Model to Avert the Worst — The New York Times #COriver #aridification #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

This irrigation canal helps support the Yakima Basin’s $4.5 billion agricultural industry. Photo credit: Washington Department of Ecology

Click the link to read the article on The New York Times website (Henry Fountain). Here’s an excerpt:

…a decade ago, the water managers of the Yakima Basin tried something different. Tired of spending more time in courtrooms than at conference tables, and faced with studies showing the situation would only get worse, they hashed out a plan to manage the Yakima River and its tributaries for the next 30 years to ensure a stable supply of water. The circumstances aren’t completely parallel, but some experts on Western water point to the Yakima plan as a model for the kind of cooperative effort that needs to happen on the Colorado right now…

Representative Melanie Stansbury, a New Mexico Democrat who worked on the Yakima Basin and other water issues for years before being elected to Congress in 2021, said the plan “represents the best of a collaborative, science-based process.”


Climate change and recurring drought had wreaked havoc with the water supply for irrigation managers and farmers in the Yakima Basin, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. Conservationists were concerned that habitats were drying up, threatening species. Old dams built to store water had blocked the passage of fish, all but eliminating the trout and salmon that the Indigenous Yakama Nation had harvested for centuries. In droughts, water allocations to many farms were cut. Years of court fights had left everyone dissatisfied, and a proposal in 2008 for a costly new dam and reservoir that favored some groups over others had not helped. Ron Van Gundy, manager of the Roza Irrigation District at the southern end of the basin, went to see Phil Rigdon, director of the Yakama Nation’s natural resources division. The two had been battling for years, largely through lawyers. They both opposed the dam, but for different reasons…

The two met, and eventually other stakeholders, joined them in developing a plan for better management of the river. After several years of give-and-take, the result was the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, a blueprint for ensuring a reliable and resilient water supply for farmers, municipalities, natural habitats and fish, even in the face of continued warming and potentially more droughts. A decade into the plan, there are tens of millions of dollars’ worth of projects up and down the river designed to achieve those goals, including canal lining and other improvements in irrigation efficiency, increasing reservoir storage, and removing barriers to fish.

Created by Imgur user Fejetlenfej , a geographer and GIS analyst with a ‘lifelong passion for beautiful maps,’ it highlights the massive expanse of river basins across the country – in particular, those which feed the Mississippi River, in pink.

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