Quantcast

Stop the War Against the Colorado River

Insights + Opinion

“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

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A dire new report issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found that the climate crisis is on a worrying trajectory as the crisis's hallmarks — sea level rise, ice loss and extreme weather — all increased over the last five years, which will end as the warmest five-year period on record.

Read More Show Less
Line of soldiers walking. Pexels

By Peter Gleick

War is a miserable thing. It kills and maims soldiers and civilians. It destroys infrastructure, cultures and communities. It worsens poverty and development challenges. And it damages and cripples vital ecological and environmental resources.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
People take part in a ceremony to mark the 'death' of the Pizol glacier on Sept. 22. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

Hundreds of activists gathered in the Swiss Alps on Sunday to mourn the loss of Pizol, a glacier that has steadily retreated over the last decade as temperatures have warmed the mountain tops, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Luis Alfonso de Alba Gongora, the UN secretary-general's special envoy for the climate summit speaks at The World Economic Forum holds the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2018 in New York on Sept. 24, 2018. Ben Hider / World Economic Forum

By Howard LaFranchi

When United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decided to hold a high-level climate summit in conjunction with this year's General Assembly kicking off next week, he was well aware of the paradox of his initiative.

Read More Show Less
Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan meets with Guatemalan farmers on May 29 in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. John Moore / Getty Images

The Trump administration ignored its own evidence on how climate change is impacting migration and food security when setting new policies for cutting aid to Central America, NBC reports.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mike Pence brought the first motorcade to Mackinac Island on Saturday. Cars have been banned on the island since 1898. 13 ON YOUR SIDE / YouTube screenshot

Vice President Mike Pence sparked outrage on social media Saturday when he traveled in the first-ever motorcade to drive down the streets of Michigan's car-free Mackinac Island, HuffPost reported.

Read More Show Less
Inhaling from an electronic cigarette. 6okean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Shawn Radcliffe

  • As illnesses and deaths linked to vaping continue to rise, health officials urge people to stop using e-cigarettes.
  • Officials report 8 deaths have been linked to lung illnesses related to vaping.
  • Vitamin E acetate is one compound officials are investigating as a potential cause for the outbreak.
The number of vaping-related illnesses has grown to 530 cases in 38 states and 1 U.S. territory, federal health officials reported.
Read More Show Less
Activist Greta Thunberg leads the Youth Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in New York City. Roy Rochlin / WireImage / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

As organizers behind Friday's Global Climate Strike reported that four million children and adults attended marches and rallies all over the world — making it the biggest climate protest ever — they assured leaders who have been reticent to take bold climate action that the campaigners' work is far from over.

Read More Show Less