Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Colorado-Russia water connection

John M. Barbieri and Deborah A. Palmieri in the Denver Post argue for something a whole lot more elaborate and expensive than conservation: Colorado, the western United States, and much of the world face long term water scarcity. Russia has vast water resources and a huge surplus of fresh water. Is there water cooperation in the future between this western state and the world's largest country?

Water shortages in the American west are well documented and worsening. There is a long history of "water wars" dating to our pioneer history, and as Mark Twain quipped, "Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting for."

…At the same time, the Russians are flush with water. As a country with the most prolific untapped water reserves, Russia, can meet not only their own demand but that of much of the world. Russia has 22 percent of Earth's fresh water resources. Rivers including the Volga, Lena, Yenisey, Ob' and Amur, and lakes including Baikal (the largest in the world), Ladoga and Onega comprise much of these reserves. Russia's six percent of global population consumes less than two percent of its water.

Russia's position as a water superpower is not lost on the Russians. The President of the State Duma (Parliament), Boris Gryzlov, has stated that Russia should become a country that leads the way in creating a worldwide market for fresh water supplies. "Since we have such reserves, we could play a key role on this market as we do on the oil and gas market," he said.

…The key to linking Colorado's water needs and Russia's water surplus is through ocean transportation, which already carries over 95 percent of world trade. Russian water would be delivered to southern California. This new source for California, which has long exceeded its legal allocation of Colorado River water, would allow The Golden State to relinquish supplies long "borrowed" from other user states, including Colorado. This type of land-based "water transfer" is commonplace throughout the western United States today…

Horseshoe Bend Arizona. Horseshoe Bend is the name for a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River located near the town of Page, Arizona, in the United States. It is located slightly downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam. Shot by Smtunli, Svein-Magne Tunli - My photo gallery, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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