Saturday, August 27, 2011

Colorado River...good to the last drop

Brandy Simmons in Yellowscene magazine: The Colorado River has not emptied into the ocean since 1998. Coloradans see it in the two-weeks-early runoff and their rapidly disappearing snowpack—the agonizingly slow death of Colorado’s primary water source.

As the state moves rapidly toward doubling its population to 10 million by 2050, it remains one of few western states without a water plan. Gov. John Hickenlooper insisted at How the West Was Warmed, a climate change conference, the state must move forward with a plan in the next five years. The general consensus? The solution must start with the people and politicians will just have to catch up.

Brad Udall, research scientist and director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded Western Water Assessment, wrote Water in the Rockies, a 21st Century Zero-Sum Game. “Water is a vexing problem world wide,” Udall said. “Climate change is really water change. Solutions are almost always zero-sum. Colorado suffers from all of the above problems. Solutions need to involve the five rights: right people, right prices, right priorities, right flexibility and right morality.”

Beth Conover, author of How the West was Warmed, a collection of stories about how people have experienced climate change in the Rocky Mountain west. “Water issues in the (Colorado) basin are not new, but the increased urgency created by climate change might facilitate or require a more urgent look at how to balance some of the uses in our rivers,” Conover said.

She said the Colorado River is representative of all of the state’s rivers. “It’s sort of the grandaddy of them all,” she said. “It’s sort of an overdrawn checking account—there’s more demand than supply already and with persistent drought and unknowns related to climate change that becomes an even bigger threat.”...

An aerial view of the Colorado River, with Arizona on the left and California on the right. Shot by Doc Searls, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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