Current Events

No Water, No Growth by Mary Ann Dickinson, Alliance for Water Efficiency

The following is a condensed version of an article that was published in the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s Water Currents newsletter and is reprinted with permission:

We’re accustomed to waiting in lines for a football game, to buy movie tickets or perhaps to get a seat in the most coveted professor’s class. But what if we had to wait in line to move? What if we had to be granted access to a city where we found a great new job or the family dream home we always wanted? This idea isn’t so far-fetched; in some places, it’s already an unfortunate reality. In the seaside village of Cambria, California, 666 families and individuals are currently waiting for permission to move into their single family homes. Many have been on the wait list for upwards of 20 years. Why have communities resorted to such extreme measures? The answer: insufficient water supplies to hook up to new homes and facilities. Planners and decision-makers are increasingly challenged with the task of accommodating new water customers which in turn places limits on overall economic growth and deters businesses from investing or expanding operations that can create jobs and bring opportunity to cities.


Expert: Overpopulation and City Expansion Result in Colorado River Water Shortages

According to a mid-February Grand Canyon News story, experts say conservation efforts like not watering lawns, taking shorter showers, turning off faucets, and not washing your vehicle are not going to help in a long-term solution for water shortages along the Colorado River Basin. According to John Weisheit, Conservation Director for Living Rivers, the only thing that will stop water from disappearing is to put the brakes on population growth and city expansion. Living Rivers, located in Moab, Utah, is an educational organization dedicated to conservation, preservation and restoration of the Colorado Plateau and is considered by many to be the voice of most non-governmental organizations located in the Colorado Basin areas. For the last 15 years Living Rivers has said the Colorado River Basin area is going to run out of water. According to Weisheit the only solution is to inform the public that the Colorado River water supply is gone in the West and there is no room for further business or residential opportunities. While population control may seem like a drastic measure, even if a solution to slow down the shortages were presented right now, it would take years to get underway and even then may not make a difference. "It's not something that can be fixed in one year--it'll take 30 years," Weisheit said.


Study: Warming Pushes Western US Toward Driest Period in 1,000 Years

During the second half of the 21st century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face unprecedented, persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions driven primarily by human-induced global warming. The finding were part of a new study, "Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains," featured in the inaugural edition of the new online journal Science Advances, produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which also publishes the leading journal Science. The research indicated that the drying would surpass in severity any of the decades-long mega-droughts that occurred much earlier during the past 1,000 years--one of which has been tied by some researchers to the decline of the Anasazi or Ancient Pueblo Peoples in the Colorado Plateau in the late 13th century. Many studies have already predicted that the Southwest could dry due to global warming, but this is the first to say that such drying could exceed the worst conditions of the distant past. "The 21st century projections make the mega-droughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden," said Jason Smerdon, a co-author and climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.


Report: Colorado River Water Evaporation Increases Due to Climate Change

A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicted an 8 percent increase in irrigation demand on the lower half of the Colorado River Basin and a 10 percent increase in evaporation from Lake Mead by 2080. The upper half of the Basin, above Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, is expected to see demand for agricultural water jump by almost 23 percent, while Lake Powell loses 7 percent more water to evaporation than it did during the last half of the 20th century. The estimates are based on a projected temperature increase of about 5 degrees across the region.


Study: Economics of the Colorado River

A new Arizona State University study commissioned by Protect the Flows and released in January 2015 revealed that hanging in the balance of the health of the Colorado River system are more than $1.4 trillion in economic activity, $871 billion in wages, and 16 million jobs. Put into perspective, an estimated 64.4 percent of the combined value of each Basin state’s output of goods and services could be lost if Colorado River water is no longer available to agriculture, businesses, industry, and  residences. The results breakdown by state as follows:


Cloud Seeding Study

The results of the most scientific study of cloud seeding done to-date were just released in December. University of Wyoming researchers conducted a $14 million randomized blind statistical experiment that was designed and evaluated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Forest Service Issues Wolf Creek Decision

Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas announced his decision in November to approve a land exchange between the Rio Grande National Forest and Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture (LMJV), the developer for the Village at Wolf Creek, which will provide Highway 160 access to the development. The proposed development dates back nearly 30 years to a 1986 land exchange that provided LMJV with the acreage near the ski area to develop the Village, but unintentionally not the legal access the development would need.

First Kokanee Spawning at Lake Nighthorse

In late October members of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife team spawned kokanee salmon in Lake Nighthorse for the first time. Members of this first graduating class of kokanee were stocked as fingerlings in 2010. Stocking 75,000 kokanee each year since means spawning will occur annually. They are the only fish being taken from the lake, which is off limits to the public until a recreation plan is in place. The lake also has stocked rainbow trout and suckers.

U.S. and Canada Water Wars?

According to a recent Water Online article, the U.S. and Canada could soon be at odds over water. Post Media's Canada.com recently reported: "Canada must prepare for diplomatic water wars with the U.S., as demand on both sides of the border grows for this vital but ultimately limited resource, says Gary Doer, Canadian ambassador to the United States." He said the problem is so pressing that in five years it will make other public debates look "silly." “I think five years from now we will be spending diplomatically a lot of our time and a lot of our work dealing with water,” he said in the report. “There will be pressure on water quality and water quantity.” Canada is rich in water resources--the country controls over 21 percent of the world's supply of fresh water.


Mega-Drought!?

The 15-year drought across most of the Western U.S. is what bioclimatologist Park Williams indicated is notable because "more area in the West has persistently been in drought during the past 15 years than in any other 15-year period since the 1150s and 1160s" — that's more than 850 years ago. 


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