Groundbreaking Report Recommends Effective Water Solutions for Agriculture, Business and Residential Use in Colorado River Basin

Communities across the West that rely on the river for drinking water, recreation and agriculture are ready for real-world solutions that they can start today and this solution set provides a game plan.

This report comes at a critical time for these seven Western states. Just last week it was reported that the sustained drought in the southwestern U.S. has depleted Lake Mead to levels not seen since Hoover Dam was completed. Lake Powell, which supplies hydroelectric power to millions of people, is also critically low, jeopardizing its power production. Due to high water demands, the Colorado River no longer regularly reaches the sea and is at even further risk for depletion due to chronic drought and rapid population growth.

“Our report showcases the ‘All-Star’ water solutions – actions that are proven, cost-effective and ready to meet our current and future water needs,” said Bart Miller, Water Program Director at Western Resource Advocates. “The fact is, there is a lot of concern about the Colorado River right now but these solutions will work and help everyone – from agriculture to growing cities – have plenty of water now and in the future. It’s time for our Western leaders to draft these All-Star solutions and put them to work.”

“There is a widening water gap creating 3.8 million acre-feet of additional water needed to meet the needs of the growing population of the West. This is an enormous amount which, if not carefully managed, could deplete the river and dramatically alter the landscape of the seven basin states,” said Matt Rice, Director of Colorado Basin Programs for American Rivers. “These solutions will ensure the river’s resources meet all future water needs for urban, rural, business and agricultural communities across all seven basin states, while still protecting the natural environment of the West.”

In addition to being cost-effective, these steps are faster and resolve water challenges better and cheaper than dams or diversions. The five solutions in the report protect the West’s recreational economy, are flexible enough to meet demand in high-snowpack, rainy or drought years, and protect the Colorado River for future generations. Each of these solutions has been tested and proven effective in cities or regions across the West.

The five critical steps for solving our current and future water shortages are:

According to American Rivers and Western Resource Advocates, the economic and environmental damage of a further-diminished Colorado River are unacceptable. Millions of people rely on the river for drinking water, agriculture and future economic growth. Also, a dry Colorado River would drastically change our quality of life and failing to implement common sense, effective water conservation solutions could result in significant disruptions in Western economies as strident measures such as permanent agricultural fallowing could result.

Some key facts about the river:

In addition to providing solutions for future water use, this report comes as major municipal water suppliers that rely on the Colorado River are initiating a program to test conservation and efficiency measures to improve water supply reliability as well as bolster the levels of Lakes Mead and Powell.

“Municipal agencies recognizing the challenges facing the River are taking a bold step with their conservation measures, which can prevent permanent fallowing of agricultural land or other drastic measures,” added Miller. “We support their current efforts and recommend they implement the solutions in this report to fully tackle water shortages.”