Quantcast
Insights

Stop the War Against the Colorado River

“Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower

As we head into 2015, the health of Colorado River is at extreme risk as is the economies of states in the lower part of the river in Arizona, Nevada and California that depend on flows in the river. Drought continues in the Southwest U.S., climate change is predicted to decrease river flows an additional 10 to 30 percent, and the level of Lake Mead—the reservoir that holds water for much of Nevada, Arizona and Southern California—continues to fall with no end in sight.

The health of the river including its endangered fish and vast recreational economy cannot support more diversions, nor can Lake Mead and the water supply needs of the downstream states.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

2014 saw one important event in Colorado River management to address these issues—a historic agreement between water agencies in the three states noted above to dramatically escalate their conservation and water-sharing programs. But this won’t be enough to stave off the continually falling levels of Lake Mead. Further, and even worse, the biggest threat to the Colorado River is coming from the upstream states—Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico are proposing to take even more water out of the river.

Specifically, in recent water planning processes in the upstream states, Colorado proposed $20 billion worth of dam and reservoir projects, Utah proposed $15 billion, Wyoming proposed “10 dams in 10 years” and New Mexico endorsed a bill-dollar water project, most of which in all four states would take even more water out of the Colorado River before it gets to Lake Mead.

Statements made by water officials in the upstream states highlight this escalating water war. Colorado’s lead water official recently said, “If anybody thought we were going to roll over and say, ‘OK, California, you’re in a really bad drought, you get to use the water that we were going to use,’ they’re mistaken.” And the lead water official in Utah recently stated, “It’s necessary to put dams on all rivers in Utah.” Thus, the upstream states have declared war on the river and war against the downstream states.

We need multilateral disarmament on the Colorado River.

The health of the river including its endangered fish and vast recreational economy cannot support more diversions, nor can Lake Mead and the water supply needs of the downstream states. All told, the Colorado River has about 5 trillion gallons flowing in it in an average year. People—farms, cities, industries from Denver to Los Angeles and beyond—take out every single drop such that the river no longer reaches the Gulf of California. The upstream states may think they are legally entitled to more water out of the river, but common sense and environmental stewardship dictate otherwise.

The Colorado River is a patient in the emergency room. If the patient is bleeding out, you don't cut open a new artery to heal it, and that's what the proposed projects by the upstream states would do.

Just like how multilateral nuclear disarmament is the only sane and responsible policy to address our political wars, multilateral river disarmament is the only sane and responsible water policy for the states in the Colorado River basin in 2015.

Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico need to put their water engineers on other types of work—instead of building more dams that destroy the river, a new water ethic that focuses on conservation and river health must move forward.

Gary Wockner, PhD, is executive director of the Save The Colorado River Campaign. Gary@SaveTheColorado.org

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Protecting the Galapagos Islands

8 Shocking Facts About Water Consumption

California Experiences Worst Drought in 1,200 Years

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Joshua Tree National Park now has more unsafe ozone days than New York City. atramos / CC BY 2.0

Air Pollution in National Parks as Bad as 20 Largest U.S. Cities

A new study shows the importance of clean air regulations to prevent air pollution from reaching national parks.

A study published in Science Advances Wednesday found that, between 1990 and 2014, the ozone concentrations in 33 of the largest and most visited national parks were statistically indistinguishable from the ozone concentrations in the 20 largest U.S. cities.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Halliburton getting ready to frack in the Bakken formation, which underlies North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Joshua Doubek / CC BY-SA 3.0

Zinke’s Real Estate Deal With Halliburton Chair to Be Investigated

Ousted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt isn't the only polluter-friendly Trump appointee with sketchy ethics.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
"From 1992 to 2016, heat killed 783 workers in the U.S. and seriously injured nearly 70,000, according to a new report on heat risks." InsideClimateNews / USDA

Protect Workers From Extreme Heat, Advocates Urge OSHA

A broad coalition of worker advocacy, public health and environmental groups on Tuesday called on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create a workplace standard for heat stress.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Tjeerd Wiersma from Amsterdam, The Netherlands / CC BY 2.0

How Coca-Cola and Climate Change Created a Public Health Crisis in a Mexican Town

A lack of drinking water and a surplus of Coca-Cola are causing a public health crisis in the Mexican town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Some neighborhoods in the town only get running water a few times a week, so residents turn to soda, drinking more than half a gallon a day on average.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Plastic trash isn't safe for kids, whether human or bear. Kevin Morgans Wildlife Photography

Even Polar Bear Cubs Can’t Escape Plastic Pollution

By Allison Guy

Plastic bags are often stamped with an all-caps warning: This bag is not a toy. Unfortunately, polar bear moms don't have much control over their kids' playthings.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights
Sea level rise is a natural consequence of the warming of our planet. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

We Can’t Hide From Global Warming’s Consequences

Over the past few months, heat records have broken worldwide.

In early July, the temperature in Ouargla, Algeria, reached 51.3°C (124.34°F), the highest ever recorded in Africa! Temperatures in the eastern and southwestern U.S. and southeastern Canada have also hit record highs. In Montreal, people sweltered under temperatures of 36.6°C (97.88°F), the highest ever recorded there, as well as record-breaking extreme midnight heat and humidity, an unpleasant experience shared by people in Ottawa. Dozens of people have died from heat-related causes in Quebec alone.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Stacey_newman / Getty Images

More Than a Third of Schools Tested Have ‘Elevated Levels’ of Lead in Drinking Water

A troubling new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that more than a third of the nation's schools that tested their water for lead found "elevated levels" of the neurotoxin. But despite heightened concern in recent years about lead in drinking water, more than 40 percent of schools surveyed conducted no lead testing in 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!