Living Rivers - Colorado Riverkeeper
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Drought Watch...It's not a matter of if, but when.
Drought Watch Campaign
Analysis of Draining Lake Powell [PDF file]
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Summary
Why was Glen Canyon Dam Built?
What lies under "Lake Powell"?
Historic opposition to Glen Canyon Dam
What about hydroelectric loss?
What about the water supply?
What about the sediment?
Why are people concerned about dam safety?
What about the recreation economy?
Dam safety concerns
Decommissoning timetable/costs

Summary

The Colorado River emerges from beneath the Hite bridge.
The Colorado River emerges from beneath the Hite bridge.
It's not a matter of if, but when, the Colorado River plumbing system will collapse. Water supply and power generation for metropolitan areas from Los Angeles to Denver will be affected, as well as the region's multi-billion dollar agricultural industry. The sixty million acre-feet of water that can be stored in the basin's reservoirs provide a cushion in times of moderate reductions in river flows, but as is presently being experienced, are no match for a sustained drought.

Since 1998, flows in the Colorado River watershed have been well below normal. Historically, Colorado River flows average 13.5 million acre feet per year. Over the past four, they have averaged only 6.9 million acre feet. Reservoirs are at their lowest level in history and dropping at a rate of ten percent per year. With below average precipitation again this year, reservoir levels will continue to decline.

Last year the US Geological Survey warned that the Colorado Plateau should be prepared for several decades of below normal river flows, and of "severe or catastrophic consequences" should the region experience a repeat of the 1942-1977 drought. Recent flows are in fact 15 percent lower than they were when the 1942 drought began.

Despite the likelihood of a major water shortage on the horizon, federal and state water managers continue to keep their heads in the sand.

Living Rivers is working on a two-part program to reform how Colorado River water is managed, so that even in years of sustained drought, human needs can be sufficiently met with water left over to maintain flows for critical riparian habitat.

We are demanding that the federal government respond to this crisis and commence a dialogue with the Colorado River basin states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, and Mexico to revise the outdated 1922 formula for allocating Colorado River Water. Known as the Colorado River Compact, this flawed agreement gives away more water on paper than the river historically delivers.

We are also demanding that the federal government establish water use and efficiency standards for all irrigators that receive water from subsidized federal water projects. Irrigators use roughly 75 percent of Colorado River water, much of it for water intensive crops such as alfalfa and other feed crops for cattle. Federal programs to facilitate substitution of vegetable and other crops could save half the water currently being used for irrigation.

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Last Update: July 20, 2004

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Living Rivers    PO Box 466     Moab, UT 84532     435.259.1063     info@livingrivers.org