The Colorado River Is in Crisis.
Climate change, drought, and growing water demands have pushed the Colorado River to the brink. The river provides water to roughly 35 million people, supports 16 million jobs, irrigates 5.5 million acres of land, supports world class recreation, and sustains critical wildlife habitat as it winds its way through some of the most treasured and sacred landscapes in the nation, including Grand Canyon National Park.
But the century-old foundation governing the river is crumbling, leaving the people, ecosystems, and economies in the Colorado River Basin at risk. Water managers, elected officials, and the federal government have tried to patch the cracks in the foundation with numerous short-term agreements over the last 20 years. Despite their efforts and this year’s wet winter, the demand for water from the river continues to exceed the available supply.
We have a narrow window of opportunity to repair the foundation, but we must act now. The federal government’s Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that manages, develops, and protects water and related resource, has kicked off the process of working with the Colorado River Basin states and Tribes, along with municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders, to develop a plan for managing the river after 2026, when current management guidelines expire. Decisions made over the next few years will determine the future of the Colorado River and the West as we know it.
Securing the River’s Future
The survival of the Colorado River depends on our ability to implement equitable and forward-thinking strategies to conserve water and keep the river healthy and flowing. At WRA, we believe the policy foundation governing the Colorado River must include five principles:
1. Reduce water use across the Basin by 25%.
2. Use the best available science and plan for there being less water in the river today and less water in the future due to a warming, drying climate.
3. Protect and improve water flows in the river to protect irreplaceable ecosystems, cultural values, and outdoor recreation opportunities.
4. Include Colorado River Basin Tribes, who have long been denied access to their fair share of water, in decision-making and ensure that they have equitable access to water.
5. Provide impacted people, conservation groups, and other stakeholders the opportunity to meaningfully contribute ideas for sustaining the river.
To learn more about each of these principles including potential ways to implement them, see our recent blog post, “A Blueprint for Governing the Colorado River.”
We have a historic opportunity to put in place a forward-thinking plan to protect the Colorado River and the people, fish, and wildlife that rely on it for generations to come.
Sign your name today to stand with us and let the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation know that you support these principles for a more sustainable future for the Colorado River.