Colorado River Canyon Gorge Grand Canyon

Six Ways Save The Colorado River is Saving the Colorado River, Right Now

by Gary Wockner, PhD, Executive Director, Save The Colorado River Campaign Category:

The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the Southwest. From Denver to San Diego, the entire region lives off its water, slurped out in unsustainable ways from top to bottom. The two big reservoirs in the system, Lakes Mead and Powell, have shrunk to their combined lowest level in history. Further, that slurping has endangered fish, severely depleted river flows, and drained the Colorado River bone dry – all 5 trillion gallons are drained out before the river meets the Gulf of California.

Here are six ways that Save The Colorado is turning back this tide and working to not just protect, but restore, the Colorado River.

  1. We support stopping all new proposed dams and diversions of water out of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Even though the river system is in severe decline, more dams and diversions are planned along the river in Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. We oppose these new dams and diversions and are prepared to fight to stop them in court.
  2. We support dramatically ramping up water conservation programs in cities across the Southwest U.S. Water conservation is the fastest, cheapest, easiest way for growing cities to get more water. Save The Colorado aggressively pushes for more water conservation as an alternative to new dams and diversions.
  3. We support rethinking, refunding, and changing the use of agricultural water so that low-value crops and wasteful irrigation methods are phased out. About 75% of the water diverted out of the Colorado is used for agriculture which is the “lowest hanging fruit” for water conservation, improved efficiency, and water-sharing agreements with cities.
  4. We support decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam and storing water in Lake Mead and underground aquifers. One-tenth of the entire flow of the Colorado River completely and wastefully evaporates and seeps away in the giant reservoirs called “Lake Mead” and “Lake Powell.” Decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam, and moving Lake Powell’s water into Lake Mead and underground aquifers, will save water, money, and farms.
  5. We support changing the Colorado River Compact so that it’s based on real climate-change science about how much water flows in the river now and in the future. Written in 1922, the Compact is called the “law of the river” and allocates more water out of the river than flows in.Save The Colorado supports changing the Compact so that it is a science-based law that also protects and restores flows in the river.
  6. We support restoring a small, permanent flow of water back to the Colorado River Delta where the river no longer meets the sea. Right now, the U.S. and Mexico are negotiating a new treaty that will restore a bit of water to the Delta – Save The Colorado has supported past agreements to get more water in the Delta and also supports the current proposal.

Some of these changes are easy and ongoing, but most will require work that has vision, strong backbone, and clarity of purpose. The damming, draining, and destruction of the Colorado River has been one of the worst disasters in American environmental history. But likewise, the river’s protection and restoration will serve as resounding example that we can write a new environmental future for this river and for America.

Gary Wockner, PhD, is Executive Director of the Save The Colorado River Campaign.