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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Gary Harmon):
A social contract on water use in the Colorado River Basin is needed — this time one between cities and rural areas — as the Colorado River Compact approaches its second century, a University of New Mexico professor said Thursday.
“We need to rethink the social contract on how we manage the (Colorado) River,” John Fleck told more than 100 people at the Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum at Colorado Mesa University on Thursday.
Despite being based on “bad science,” the original contract is the 1922 compact among seven states and the federal government that shaped the way the southwest has developed, Fleck said.
Fleck studies the workings of science and political and policy processes and is the author of the 2016 book, “Water is For Fighting Over and Other Myths About Water in the West.”
The authors of the 1922 agreement relied on estimates that oversold the amount of water in the Colorado River system, Fleck said.
“We built a lot of stuff based on old, bad science,” Fleck said.
Science, however, also is changing the how water use is understood, he said.
While it has become more clear over decades that the water available in the 108,000 square-mile basin, it’s becoming clear that the demand for water also was overstated, Fleck said.
Even as the population of the basin has grown — the river is now a source of water for 49 million people — economies and populations also have grown.
That trend is evident from Albuquerque to Denver and Los Angeles to Phoenix, Fleck said.
“Everybody is using less water,” even as gross regional products are on the rise, he said, noting that water use in the upper Colorado River basin is lower now than its was in the 1980s.
“This suggests that (growth in the face of scarcity) is a real phenomenon,” Fleck said.
That’s true for agriculture, as well as municipal and industrial use, he said.
It’s important to better understand the realities of how water is used, especially in the face of scarcity, Fleck said, noting that fights already are breaking out in California between rural and urban water users.
“Otherwise, the risk is that rich and politically powerful cities” such as Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix and others “will start throwing sharp elbows” at rural water-rights holders as the cities search for water to meet the supposed needs of growing populations, Fleck said. “That sends a really wrong and dangerous message.”
Any new social contract use on water management also should take into account the segments of American society that were ignored the last go-round, he said, pointing to the Navajo and other tribes whose water needs weren’t included in the 1922 pact.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
There are many ways to use the Colorado River other than just relying on its water, a panel of local people who have been working to create more public access to the river told participants at a water conference Wednesday.
As recently as 30 years ago, the community was like many others in the nation, the panelists told participants at the 2017 Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum at Colorado Mesa University. The forum continues today.
“We didn’t do a great job of treating the river with respect,” said Stacy Beaugh, executive director of the Tamarisk Coalition, who moderated a panel of five local residents who have, in their own ways, been working on ways to help revitalize the riverfront.
“There was no public access to the river for boating or anything 30 years ago,” said Beaugh, who also is co-chairwoman of the Colorado Riverfront Commission. “We had a bunch of junk cars and uranium mill tailings all over the river. It was pretty gross.”
The panel — Brian Mahoney, Colorado Riverfront Commission and Foundation board member; Cindy Enos-Martinez, a Riverside neighborhood resident and former Grand Junction mayor; Traci Wieland, Grand Junction’s recreation superintendent; Thaddeus Shrader, part owner of Bonsai Design; and Jen Taylor, owner of Mountain Khakis — talked about the work they and others have done since then to clean up the riverfront.
Over those years, the city, the commission, the Grand Junction Lions Club and many other groups and individuals have dedicated their time and money on various projects to, first, clean up the river, and then to provide public access to it.
Lately, that access has now included development of Las Colonias Park along with a business park along a two-mile section where the Colorado and Gunnison rivers meet.
It all began thanks to many people, but particularly to Mahoney and the Lions Club, who have been working on revitalization of the riverfront since the 1980s.
“In 1986, this project actually started in the minds of many people at the Lions Club,” Mahoney said. “In 1986, it was almost the bottom of the oil shale bust, the economy had gone to hell in a hand basket, and there were 1,400 home foreclosures. They could have put a sign up on the edge of town, ‘The last one out, turn out the lights.’”
The six talked about how the effort snowballed over the years, and attracted not only many volunteers, but also state and local grant money to get things done. What needs to happen next, the group said, is more of the same.
“More and more over the past few years, more community members were coming together,” Shrader said. “There’s change in the air. There’s an amazing opportunity here.”
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From the Moab Sun News:
Finding solutions to keep more water in the Colorado River for people and nature is the goal of the 2017 Southeastern Utah Water Workshop on Monday, Oct. 16. The Colorado River supplies drinking water to more than 36 million people, irrigates more than 5.5 million acres of land and supports a $26 billion recreation and tourism industry. However, this lifeline of the West is facing serious challenges, including water quantity and quality.
Featuring prominent speakers from across the region addressing key topics on water-related issues around southeastern Utah and the Colorado River Basin, the workshop will be held at the Moab Valley Inn, 711 S. Main St.
“Enduring solutions to our most pressing water issues (depend) on the active involvement of people and partners,” said Sue Bellagamba, Canyonlands Regional Director for The Nature Conservancy in Utah. “This inclusive event is designed to generate positive action that provides the most benefit for people who live near, use, visit and otherwise depend upon the waters (of) the Colorado River system.”
“As the second driest state in the nation, Utah faces a constant challenge to its limited water resources that sustain our communities, our farms and industries and our natural world,” Emery Water Conservancy District Manager Jay Humphrey said. “By working cooperatively together, we can develop solutions that benefit both people and nature.”
Increasing water demands and climate change bring immense challenges to water users in seven states. The workshop will showcase an innovative, market-based conservation program that allows landowners, ranches and cities to take part in a voluntary, compensated water use reduction program. There will also be presentations on endangered fish species, the Colorado River Compact, policy, water-resilient landscape design and nature-based solutions, among other subjects.
The event is coordinated by The Nature Conservancy, Utah State University-Moab, Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University, the Utah Division of Water Rights and the Emery Water Conservancy District.
The workshop begins at 9:30 a.m. and runs to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 16. Early-bird tickets cost $30 before Friday, Oct. 6. All ticket sales after Oct. 6 are $40. Spots are limited. Register at: http://coloradomesa.edu/water-center.
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Join us Saturday, October 7th to learn about how the Grand Valley’s economy depends on our rivers for its growth and vitality.
10 am-5 pm- meet at Edgewater Brewing, 905 Struthers Ave, Grand Junction
Orchard Mesa Pump & Power Plant site
Lunch at a farm
Las Colonias Park/Watson Island
Happy Hour at Edgewater!
This event is being organized in collaboration with Business for Water Stewardship, Alpine Bank, Colorado River District, Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Grand Junction Economic Partnership, and the Grand Junction Outdoor Recreation Coalition.
Sponsors: Hutchins Water Center at CMU, Business for Water Stewardship, Denver Water, Walton Family Foundation
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum
John Fleck, Director of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program and author of Water is for Fighting Over and Other Myths about Water in the West
Brian Richter, President, Sustainable Waters