The Colorado River serves as an oasis for wildlife, provides refuge for endangered fish, supports outdoor recreation, fuels the economy, and gives life to Western communities as it rolls through alpine meadows and races into red-rock canyons. For more than a century, people have fought over the river’s water and sought to bend this dynamic system to their will. Today, the river’s flows are declining due to climate change, drought, and overconsumption. It is time to stop asking how much more we can take from the river and start giving back.
The federal government has started the process for updating the Colorado River’s management guidelines, which will shape the future of the river and the West. WRA is building momentum for five principles to protect the river:
Reduce water use by 25%.
Demand for the river’s water vastly exceeds the supply. Businesses, industry, cities, farms, and ranches must reduce water use. We must also ensure that Colorado River Basin Tribes, who have long been denied their fair share of water, can access water and are equal players in identifying strategies for sustainable management.
Plan for less water in the river today and less in the future due to a warming, drying climate.
Actions to address water shortages are often too small and too late. We need more flexible and proactive policies to respond to changing conditions.
Keep water flowing in the river to protect irreplaceable ecosystems, cultural values, and outdoor recreation.
When the Colorado River’s water was divided up a century ago, little or no attention was paid to the needs of the environment. Future policies must protect ecosystems and keep the river flowing.
Include Basin Tribes in decision making and ensure they have equitable access to water.
Tribal water rights, infrastructure needs, and values have long been put on the back burner. Tribal communities throughout the Basin have been left without access to clean, running water as a result. Tribes must be included in decision making and be able to access and use their water.
Provide impacted people, conservation groups, and other stakeholders with the opportunity to contribute ideas for sustaining the river.
Stakeholders have not always been given meaningful opportunities to provide input. Decision-making forums must be more transparent, accessible, and inclusive.