The Colorado River flows south nearly 1,500 miles from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, through falls, deserts, and canyons, to the vibrant floodplains of a vast delta in Mexico and the Gulf of California.
Water representatives, local farmers, environmentalists, and others from the water shortage groups gathered Friday for the Colorado River District’s annual water seminar to discuss the river’s historic-low levels — and the need to reduce usage from Wyoming to California.
The damming and diverting of the Colorado River, the country’s seventh-longest river, may be viewed as a triumph of engineering by some and a crime against nature by others, but there are troubling new developments.
The river has been particularly low for the past decade due to the Southwest’s drought. It still scours the Grand Canyon, much to the delight of rafters and other visitors. Boaters continue to rumble across Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona, which is 110 miles long and formed by the Hoover Dam.
At the lake’s edge, however, they can see lines in the rock walls that are as distinct as bathtub rings, indicating that the water level is much lower than it once was—130 feet lower, in fact, since 2000. According to water resource officials, some of the reservoirs fed by the river will never again be full.
Deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau announced, “The worsening drought crisis impacting the Colorado River Basin is driven by the effects of climate change, including extreme heat and low precipitation,”
The Colorado River system provides drinking water to well almost 40 million people across the region and irrigates approximately 5 million acres of farmland. People are removing too much water from the system, and a prolonged drought caused by climate change has depleted the river’s resources.
The federal government has announced that Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico will have to decrease their water consumption for the second year in a row. Arizona water officials objected to being asked to bear an unfair share of the burden.
Ted Cooke, the general manager of the Central Arizona Project and Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources expressed frustration from Arizona’s water policy,“It is unacceptable for Arizona to continue to carry a disproportionate burden of reductions for the benefit of others who have not contributed”.