1st Part of Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study Praised for Climate Impact Focus

June 6, 2011
Contact: 

NEWS RELEASE

Contacts:
Sean Crowley, (202) 550-6524-c, scrowley@edf.org

(Boulder, CO–June 6, 2011) A leading conservation group today praised the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for the first part of a study it released today, which concluded that climate change will reduce water flow in the Colorado River Basin approximately nine percent by 2050. However, the conservation group, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), says future reports on the study about water supply and demand in the basin over the next 50 years need to examine how to sustain healthy river flows and the impacts on the recreation and tourism industries that are so critical to the economy of the region.

"The economic well-being of rural communities and major cities in the basin are inextricably linked to the environmental health of the Colorado River itself," said EDF's Rocky Mountain Regional Director Dan Grossman, a former vice chairman of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee in the Colorado Senate. "And just as human health depends on healthy blood flow, the Colorado River's health depends upon healthy water flows that are being compromised by current management practices and policies, as well as a warming climate."

The Bureau of Reclamation is collaborating with representatives from the seven Colorado River Basin states (Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California) to produce the "Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study." It includes Interim Report #1 released today, Interim Report #2 due in Fall 2011, Interim Report #3 due in Spring 2012, and the Final Study Report due in July 2012.

EDF is pushing the Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado River Basin states to ensure that the study identifies solutions to the imbalance between supply and demand in the Basin while sustaining healthy river flows.

"Active outdoor recreation in the Colorado River Basin contributes more than $75 billion annually to the region's economy and supports more than 780,000 jobs," added Grossman. "That's why we must capitalize on this study by crafting a path forward that protects the health of the Colorado River–and the ecosystems and economies it supports–or we'll miss a critical opportunity with potentially tragic consequences for the region. While the Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado River Basin states have made some progress, they have a lot of work left to do."

According to the Bureau of Reclamation's web site, the Final Study Report will "characterize current and future water supply and demand imbalances in the Basin and assess the risks to Basin resources. Resources include water allocations and deliveries consistent with the apportionments under the "Law of the River;" hydroelectric power generation; recreation; fish, wildlife, and their habitats (including candidate, threatened, and endangered species); water quality including salinity; flow and water dependent ecological systems; and flood control."

"Many stakeholders have an interest in management of the Colorado," said EDF's Colorado River Project Director Jennifer Pitt, who testified last year at a congressional oversight hearing entitled: "Collaboration on the Colorado River: Lessons Learned to Meet Future Challenges." "The Basin Study is an opportunity to take the long view, and to examine the full range of values society wants from the river."

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