Prolonged drought, driven by climate change and exacerbated by chronic overuse, has resulted in the Colorado River and its major reservoirs being at the lowest levels ever. These impacts have meant that communities, agriculture, and other stakeholders have started preparing to reduce their water use, and some have already cut back on the water they use in efforts to prevent drawing down the river even further.
While the river is facing historic threats, we also have a significant opportunity to address the systemic issues impacting the Colorado River and to take action to make the river, and the communities that depend on it, more resilient to climate change.
In the months and years to come, key decisionmakers will convene to negotiate updates to the Colorado River Basin Interim Guidelines, a set of temporary updates to the Law of the River put in place in 2007, which are set to expire in 2026. These negotiations are an opportunity to modernize how we manage the Colorado River’s water and protect the river’s health in a future increasingly impacted by a hotter and drier climate.
To understand more about what’s at stake, we spoke with WRA’s Healthy Rivers Program Director Bart Miller, Senior Water Policy Advisor Kim Mitchell, Water Policy Analyst John Berggren, and former Assistant Secretary of Water and Science for the U.S. Department of the Interior and WRA board member Anne Castle and dove into the threats facing the Colorado River, what they mean for Western communities, and how we can and must take action to update management and protect the River for the next 100 years to come.