"We have additional water to develop" in the upper basin, he said. "Climate assumptions are the most signficant factor to our vulnerability in the upper basin."
In contrast, the lower basin states have already developed their full allotment of Colorado River water, Ostler said.
"They face imminent system shortage," he said.
Several people who testified stressed that water conservation — which the bureau estimates to could yield 1 million acre-feet — and reuse, which would deliver another 930,000 acre-feet, are key in shoring up the shortfalls, but they are not the panacea that will solve it all.
"It is very tempting to look at conservation and reuse as the sliver bullet for Colorado River imbalances, but Arizonans have also learned we have to augment our water supplies," said Kathleen Ferris, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.
"I think we have to be unafraid to seek the truth about what will and will not work so the solutions we forge will have real and lasting results," she said.
Conservation and advocacy groups praised the hearing as one more step along the path to help improve the future of the Colorado River.
"We were happy to see the Colorado River's ecological health get a voice in the hearing before Congress," said Gary Wockner of the Save The Colorado River Campaign. "As the most endangered river in America and a huge environmental and recreational resource, the Colorado River deserves protection and restoration"
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