More Demand, Less Water: The Future of the Colorado River

December 13, 2012

Dec. 13, 2012                          Doug Kenney

Population growth, climate change and drought will overwhelm the capacity of the Colorado River system to meet all water demands over the next 50 years, according to a study just released by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Doug Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at CU-Boulder’s Natural Resources Law Center, has read the study and says unless something is done the future looks pretty scary for the Colorado River.

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More Demand, Less Water: The Future of the Colorado River

Dec. 13, 2012                                                           Doug Kenney

Population growth, climate change and drought will overwhelm the capacity of the Colorado River system to meet all water demands over the next 50 years, according to a study just released by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Doug Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at CU-Boulder’s Natural Resources Law Center, has read the study and says unless something is done the future looks pretty scary for the Colorado River.

CUT 1 “The study looked at projections of water demands going out to the year 2060. Those demands keep going up. We looked at projected supplies after 2060 and those are projected to go down. And this is a basin that has seen the effects of climate change. (:16) The study estimated maybe 9 percent drop in water flows between now and 2060. (744) You plot those trends and you see that by 2060 the demands on the river could easily be 20 percent higher than the actual supplies from the river, which is a pretty scary number.” (:35)

Kenney calls the report, “The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study,” a wake up call for the 30 million people living in Colorado, six other western states and Mexico that rely on the Colorado River for water needs.

He says new water management strategies need to be adopted as soon as possible.

CUT 2 “There’s a lot of ideas about how we can conserve water, how we can use water more efficiently. There are some thoughts about transferring water out of some agricultural uses. The main water uses in the basin are still for agriculture. (:12) The thought is that maybe some of that will have to change -- some sharing water between different interests and different states even could help shift the risk around a little bit – the risk of shortage.” (:24)

Kenney says the study also included expensive and radical options for importing water to the Colorado River Basin such as building a pipeline from the Missouri River to Colorado’s Front Range, float icebergs south and building desalination plants in California and Mexico. 

For more information on the study go to http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy.html.

 

-CU-

 

 

 

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