Water watchers warn of future problems

With much of the West locked into what’s being described as the “worst 14-year drought period in the last hundred years,” sportsmen need to be proactive when it comes to water-management policy.

That’s the advice of the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a nonprofit coalition of leading sportsmen’s groups.

While issues of habitat loss and wildlife never go away, one of the leading causes of concern is the impending shortage of water across the drought-stricken West.

The above quote came from Larry Walkoviak, Upper Colorado Regional Director for the Bureau of Reclamation, when announcing the agency in 2014 is releasing the lowest amount of water ever from Lake Powell since the reservoir was being filled during the 1960s.

It’s expected the 9 percent reduction will set the table for the first-ever shortage declaration on the Lower Colorado River, either in 2015 or 2016.

According to Circle of Blue, an independent bureau reporting on the world’s resources, the water level in Lake Mead, downstream from Powell, is projected to drop below a trigger point that sets off a round of restrictions on water withdrawals for Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico.

Both Mead and Powell are less than half-full.

Some forecasts predict up to a 30 percent decline in basin runoff by mid-century.

“We’re staring down the barrel of something bad,” J.C. Davis, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), told Circle of Blue. The Southern Nevada Water Authority supplies water to Las Vegas, some 90 percent of which comes from the Colorado River.

What this shortage means to sportsmen is a potential loss of water available for fish, wildlife and their habitats in states in the lower Colorado River Basin, especially Arizona and Nevada.

“The consequences of this decision are far-reaching and could ripple across the West for years to come,” said Jimmy Hague, director of the TRCP Center for Water Resources. “This is an unmistakable signal that we’re entering a new paradigm on the Colorado River, and unless sportsmen get involved in decisions influencing this new paradigm, we will be left out in the cold when it comes to water use.”

A story Monday in The Daily Sentinel said water managers in Colorado already assume there isn’t enough water in the state to meet future Front Range demands.

“While many water-management decisions are made at the state and local level, there is a need for an organized sportsmen’s voice at the federal level and a lot we can do there,” Hague said. “For example, the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program funds the river basin studies that have generated all this discussion about the Colorado River. WaterSMART also funds water reuse and efficiency grants that have increased water supply in the West by 700,000 acre-feet per year.

“Hunters and anglers should let their federal representatives know that funding for Water-
SMART is important to sportsmen.”

Taking more water out of western Colorado streams for Front Range is going to exacerbate problems in this state and down-river, water managers said.


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