Water Supply for Growing Communities
Western communities have a water supply problem. There is not enough water in rivers to meet current demand, and climate change and rapid population growth are going to make this imbalance worse. Further, major reservoirs throughout the West, which are akin to the region’s water savings account, are at critically low levels and some could be empty within the next few years. As flows in Western rivers continue to decline and some states face mandatory shortages, communities urgently need to use water more efficiently or face dire consequences.
River health and protecting ecosystems
Everyone benefits when our rivers are healthy and flowing. Yet, for more than a century we have taken vast amounts of water out of rivers and choked them with dams, often at the expense of the plants, animals, fish, and other aquatic life that rivers support. Today, population growth and warmer and drier temperatures are further straining waterways, leading some river reaches to go dry and threatening the extinction of species. It’s essential that we take steps to restore rivers, to benefit ecosystems, fish, wildlife, and the rivers themselves. This not only preserves the natural environment, but also the fabric of our communities and our way of life in the West.
Outdoor recreation economy and livelihoods
Rivers are a way of life in the West, whether you enjoy heart-pumping whitewater rafting, cycling alongside the banks of a waterway, fishing for native trout, or simply cooling off in shallow pools. Yet, climate change is making streamflows increasingly unreliable, with less water in our rivers. Additionally, communities often lack the ability to legally protect the water that is essential to recreational uses. As such, Westerners are rapidly seeing the harmful impacts not only on their wellbeing, but also on the annual $75 billion recreation economy our rivers support. The livelihoods of millions of people and viability of countless businesses depend on reliable flows of water year after year, and innovative solutions are needed to ensure the many benefits brought by river recreation don’t dry up.