Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is expected to deliver remarks today to the Colorado River Water Users Association annual conference in Las Vegas. As Lake Powell and Lake Mead plunge to historically low levels, water managers across the West are scrambling to meet ever-increasing demands on the dwindling flows of the Colorado River. The media is reporting a variety of urgent proposals to alter operations of the massive system of reservoirs on the river as the managers cast about for answers.
What is missing, however, is any attempt to address the bigger problem—the threats to the Colorado as a living river rather than as merely a water supply and conveyance feature.
McCrystie Adams, staff attorney for the Rocky Mountain Office of Earthjustice, issued the following statement today regarding the future of the Colorado River:
“A business-as-usual response to the current crisis, while potentially resolving disputes between those who take water out of the river, does nothing to ensure a better future and a living river.
“A more sustainable future for the Colorado River will require a fundamentally different approach to river management and water supply. Smart water planning means more than carefully dividing up flows—it means valuing living, flowing rivers and the natural systems that depend upon them as much as municipal and agricultural water. It means embracing water conservation, recycling, and re-use. We urge the Secretary and all of those who depend on the Colorado River to ensure that the river is a keystone of our future and not a relic of our past.”
The Colorado River is the foundation of natural systems—fish, wildlife and entire ecosystems—across a wide swath of the west. For a century, these important resources and the human communities that depend on them have taken a back seat to the drive to capture water for our growing cities. Now, with flows dropping and its natural rhythm disrupted, the river itself is endangered. This is painfully apparent through the struggle for survival of the river’s few remaining native fish.