Next river goal: Making the most of existing supply
The federal government is focusing on working with states to make the most efficient use of existing water supplies as a first effort to head off a projected future gap between supply and demand in the Colorado River watershed.
Department of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation officials met in San Diego this week with parties from the seven basin states to talk about the next steps following release of a Reclamation-led study in December. It projected an annual shortfall of 3.2 million acre-feet a year by 2060 unless corrective actions are taken.
The government is now forming working groups to look at municipal/industrial and agricultural uses, and also at the need to ensure healthy river flows for environmental and recreational needs.
Terry Fulp, director of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region, said one goal is to better understand what effort to conserve water by users is occurring now, and what additional opportunities can be pursued in the future. These could cover everything from efficiencies in use, to reuse, to “banking” that allows agricultural water to be temporarily put to urban uses without the water rights being transferred.
He said the healthy rivers work group will look at what is needed in terms of data and modeling in order to pursue opportunities to ensure adequate flows in certain reaches of the Colorado and tributaries at various times of year.
The recently completed study also identified various means of augmenting the supply of water in the basin, such as transbasin pipelines and desalination of ocean water. But Fulp said those can be large-infrastructure investments with high environmental costs as well, and the Bureau of Reclamation decided it should focus on “more low-hanging fruit” involving measures such as conservation.
Molly Mugglestone, co-director of Protect the Flows, a coalition of businesses, said in a statement that through approaches including conservation, reuse and improved agricultural efficiency, “we can meet the water needs of the Southwest, while protecting a healthy, flowing river and all the jobs that depend on it.”
In a joint news release, several major municipal water suppliers in basin states vowed to build on the conservation measures they already have undertaken. Denver Water chief executive officer and manager Jim Lochhead noted that agriculture rather than municipalities uses most of the river’s water, and that a warmer, drier climate is the biggest driver in the projected future imbalance.
But he added, “We have already made great strides in water efficiency, and our work will continue.”
THE GRAND VALLEY’S 4-DAY OUTLOOK
NATIONAL FORECAST AND TEMPERATURES
WATER LEVELS AND FLOWS
Here’s what’s in store today
High 75, Low 45
High 76, Low 50
High 91, Low 59
High 86, Low 59
High 89, Low 58
RightAlign.131High 74 at 3:55 p.m.
Low 43 at 5:02 a.m.
Average high 81
Average low 51
Record high 99 in 2000
Record low 34 in 2004
High this date last year 88
Low this date last year 50
RightAlign.131For the period ending at 5 p.m. 0.00 in.
Total this month 0.87 in.
Average month to date 0.86 in.
Total for year 3.41 in.
Average year to date 3.81 in.
RightAlign.131High 76% at 5 a.m.
Low 14% at 4 p.m.
High 72, Low 50, sunny
High 71, Low 37, sunny
High 67, Low 37, sunny
High 55, Low 30, sunny
High 82, Low 50, sunny
High 75, Low 46, sunny