Interior official: Dry climate puts pressure on river

Population growth, drought, changing environmental needs and climate change are posing new issues in managing the Colorado River Basin.

To deal with them, the U.S. Department of the Interior is conducting a water-supply and demand study of the basin from Wyoming and Colorado to California, an Interior Department official said Friday at the Colorado River District’s water seminar.

The exact form of the study will be shaped by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and a variety of stakeholders from around the basin, said Anne Castle, assistant secretary for water and science.

“We all know that every drop of the Colorado River is allocated,” Castle said.

That makes it all the more important to put the water in the river to the best use as the population of people dependent on it grows and the amount of water it carries shrinks as a result of drought and climate change.

About 25 million people from Denver to Los Angeles depend on the river for water.

The Bureau of Reclamation will fund $1 million, and various participating agencies will contribute money or in-kind services.

“The Colorado River Basin states are making great strides in working together to address our common challenges,” said Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “We need to be pro-active in developing solutions, and this study is an important step in that direction.”

Castle, who lived for a time in the 1970s on Orchard Mesa, most recently was a partner in the Denver law firm of Holland & Hart.

In her new position, she oversees Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Interior Department also will study the Yakima River Basin in south central Washington and the Milk and St. Mary river systems in north central and southern Montana, Castle said.


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