A REVERENCE FOR RIVERS Luna B. Leopold, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of California,…
Hello Friends of the Colorado River,
The water supply situation continues to deteriorate across the Colorado River basin as Lake Mead — the largest reservoir in the U.S. — hit its lowest point in history this week. Further, the lake is expected to decline even more as the summer plays out. The lake hit the “trigger point” of 1,075 feet above sea level, which may cause the first official “shortage” to be declared on the Colorado River in the next year or two.
This shortage would force cutbacks in water deliveries to Arizona, Las Vegas, and Southern California. In this EcoWatch article, I call this decline the “condor in the coal mine,” and continue, “The health of the river and water supplies across the Southwest U.S. are continuing to decline. People are literally draining everything.” What can be done to fix this mess? As I’ve written elsewhere, we need to 1) stop all new proposed diversions out of the river so it doesn’t get worse, 2) dramatically ramp up conservation efforts, like those noted in this report titled “The Hardest Working River,” and 3) the federal government and the states need to negotiate a new Colorado River Compact that doesn’t drain the river.
OK, now you want some more bad news?! Just a few days ago the State of Wyoming announced that they are proposing to take a massive new amount of water out of the Colorado River system to be used for “energy development” and other needs they haven’t yet identified.
The proposal would be the largest new diversion of water out of the Green River in decades — ~150,000 acre feet — which would no longer flow into the Colorado River, and would surely cause trouble downstream as the levels in Lake Mead continue to drop. Further, of course the diversion would continue the draining and ecological destruction of the health of the river system from Wyoming all the way to the Gulf of California. As I’ve noted before in other articles, all of the upstream states — Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico — are proposing to further drain the system and imperil the health of the river.
OK, how about a little good news! In addition, to helping us advocate to protect and restore this imperiled river system, you can also get out there on the rivers and enjoy them while we still can! The rains in May and June in Colorado have caused a lot of runoff in the rivers and streams in Colorado, and in the Colorado River, and so the rafting is great!
There was good rain in Wyoming too, and so the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument is also flowing well. In conjunction with our great friends at O.A.R.S. Adventure Travel, Save The Colorado is offering a Green River raft trip in late August. The Green is still a beautiful river — a float through Dinosaur National Monument will renew your vigor to fight the dam builders in the future. The raft trip is August 23 – 26, all details are posted here. I’ll be there, as will renown California river advocate, Mark Dubois, to enjoy the sun and rapids and talk about the great river systems of the Western U.S.