Dennis Strong, director of the state’s Division of Water Resources and one of the state agencies that pitched in on funding the study, said the analysis makes clear the Colorado River will not be able to meet all the future demands of water use in the basin states.
But he stressed the temptation to emphasize the projected shortfall may come at the expense of other key lessons and facts that may be overlooked.
“It is helpful to understand that much of the use of the Colorado River is outside of the area that catches the rain and melted snow that becomes the river. The water of the river is used in San Diego, Denver, Salt Lake City and Albuquerque — all cities that are outside the river basin.”
In none of those cities, he added, is the Colorado River the sole supply of water, so when population projections in those regions are used to calculate projected shortfalls, it is not reasonable to expect the Colorado to step in and fill all the gap.
“Most of those future needs must be met with water that is from outside the Colorado River basin, just as they are today,” he said.
The lower basin states have already used up all of their allocations of Colorado River, and that is where the majority of demand will come in the next 50 years.
Seeing what has already begun to play out in those other basin states will provide good lessons for Utah, Colorado and Wyoming in the coming years, he said.
“I don’t think the study is a crisis statement for the Colorado River in the upper basin,” he said. “Is it a call to action? Yes.”
Comments on the study may be emailed to ColoradoRiverBasinStudy@usbr.gov or mailed to the Bureau of Reclamation, attention Pam Adams, LC2721, P.O. Box 61470, Boulder City, Nev., 89006-1470. They may also be faxed to 702-293-8418.
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