Colorado River, Climate Change, and Water Management Policy

The summer was full of Colorado River water shortage headlines, as some of the following indicate:
·         Colo. River releases from Powell to hit historic low (August 16, 2013--Northern Colorado Business Report)
·         Colorado River shortage: What happens when the water runs dry? (August 17, 2013--Marketplace)
·         A slow-motion Colorado River disaster (August 19, 2013--Los Angeles Times)
·         Water shortages loom in Southwest, could trigger cuts (August 4,
·         The Colorado River is the lifeline of the West and it's running dry (August 4, 2013--Denver Post)
·         Study forecasts 50-year limit on Colorado River supply (July 17, 2013--Durango Herald)
Exasperating Colorado River water shortage problems, there were also quite a few stories and reports over the summer related to climate change:
·         Climate change to bring more sizzling summers, study says (September 6, 2013--USA Today)
·         Heat waves to become much more frequent and severe (August 15, 2013--Science Daily)
·         Cool heads likely won't prevail in a hotter, wetter world: Climate change will likely exacerbate violence (August 1, 2013--Science Daily)
·         Climate change occurring ten times faster than at any time in past 65 million years (August 1, 2013--Science Daily)
·         Extreme wildfires in western U.S. likely fueled by climate change (August 1, 2013--Science Daily)
The reality, however, is that experts, policy makers, researchers, and writers have been sounding these alarms for years. Data taken from the Water Information Program (WIP) website (, from 2007 to present, for example, indicates that drought and water resource constraints are one of the most salient topics, as are those related to water conflicts, warnings, and growth. Though subjective and not scientifically or statistically based, the sampling serves to paint a picture of the reality of the water situation in the West and our water future. The question is what are we going to do about it?  

Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, stated the question this way, “Should the policy objective be to ‘get through’ the drought, which assumes conditions will return to ‘normal’ OR should it be to address longer term structural problems caused by a demand for water which may exceed the average available supply?” In this regard, he indicated the need for some serious policy talks, decisions, and changes. As Kuhn further stated, “If we look at the hydrology of the Colorado River system since the early 1930s, which excludes the abnormally wet period from 1905 to 1929, current system-wide demands for Colorado River water exceed the available supply by about ½ million acre feet per year or more. As a river basin we have two basic choices. We can either reduce our use or augment our supply.”