Colorado River users stick together: Various interest groups ask to take a break from new water projects | news

On July 15, a group of activists, business leaders, farmers and elected officials gathered at the Hoover Dam on the Arizona / Nevada border to hold a demonstration and urge water managers to moratorium on new dam and diversion projects on the Colorado River impose.

“I have been a river guide and have been for 41 years. I know this river system very, very well. And I can tell you it’s not a healthy river system, ”said John Wisdom of Moab, conservation director of the non-profit Living Rivers, in a speech at the demonstration. The event was organized by Kyle Roerink, director of the not-for-profit Great Basin Water Network, and attended by representatives from over a dozen organizations.

Wisdom spoke of endangered fish dying when river levels drop, resulting in higher water temperatures. He talked about decreased runoff and how reservoirs in the Upper Colorado River Basin – Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa, and Navajo – are being lowered to maintain minimal water levels in Lake Powell downstream.

Wisdom has been a water activist for decades and has been at similar demonstrations at Hoover Dam in the past.

“What we said yesterday was said 40 years ago,” Wisdom said on July 16. “We should take care of it 40 years ago, not now.”

It refers to the management of the Colorado River, which is governed by the complex Colorado River Compact. The 1922 agreement divides water into seven states: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming in the Upper Basin, and Nevada, Arizona, and California in the Lower Basin. Politics, climate, ecology, growth and development all affect the availability of water and its distribution, and as the current 20-year drought in the Southwest is compounding the far-reaching effects of climate change, some of these factors are coming to a head in the flow of management.

For example, on July 16, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that an additional 181,000 acre-feet of water would be released from the aforementioned Upper Basin Reservoirs of Wisdom, with the expectation that the additional water will raise Lake Powell’s level by one meter.

Downriver Lake Mead is also in trouble. It currently stands at an altitude of 1,067 feet. Under the terms of the agreements negotiated in 2007 and 2019, this will result in a cut in water allocations for Arizona and Nevada when the lake reaches 1,075 feet – up to 613,000 acre-feet, or enough water to serve three million people for a year.

Despite these catastrophic conditions, some land and water managers and developers are planning projects that would divert more water from the Colorado River. In Washington County, Utah, the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline to divert water from Lake Powell to the Sand Hollow Reservoir has been controversial since its conception in the 1990s.

Opponents argue that it is a wasteful, expensive project – cost estimates are between $ 1 billion and $ 2 billion – that will divert water from an over-allocated river to one of the country’s thirstiest water consumers, based on gallons consumed per capita Day. According to the Utah Geological Survey, most of Utah’s water consumption is used for irrigation.

Proponents say the pipeline will be needed to diversify the area’s water supplies, which currently depends on the Virgin River Basin, and to accommodate future growth. St. George newspaper The Spectrum commissioned a survey of Washington Counties to assess local support for the Lake Powell Pipeline; In a June 3 article in The Spectrum, author Joan Meiners said that almost a quarter of respondents had never heard of the project, despite the fact that it had been discussed for decades.

Another proposed project affecting Colorado River activists is a major development in southern Nevada made possible by the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act. The bill includes an agreement that will open 42,000 hectares of public land for residential, commercial and industrial development while strengthening protection for an additional two million hectares of public land.

Law advocates point to increased Nevada population projections in the coming decades; Water activists fear that no water sources have been identified to feed the proposed developments.

With federal stimulus money flowing to state and local governments through the American Rescue Plan Act and possibly in an upcoming infrastructure bill, activists want to hedge against those dollars pouring into unsustainable water projects. Demonstrations like last week at the Hoover Dam draw attention to the problems.

While Wisdom laments that conservation efforts no longer took place 40 years ago, he was delighted to attend the Hoover Dam gathering last Thursday and to see a diverse group of attendees.

Representatives from counties and cities in the area, a representative of the Hopi tribe, members of the tourism industry, and members of a nearby chamber of commerce joined environmentalists and water policy experts in calling for a halt to the new Colorado River diversions and a change in the country Management practice.

“It was pretty lonely 20 years ago, but now it’s not so lonely,” Wisdom said of such events. “I’m just thrilled that it even happened.”

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