Governmental changes for the future of the Colorado River

Governmental changes for the future of the Colorado River

Based on an article by David Festa and Martin Gutiérrez and a press release by the US Bureau of reclamation.

Back in 2012 the United States and Mexico made agreements to make adjustments to adopt sustainable water management concerning the Colorado River. These were:

  • “Implementing efforts to enhance water infrastructure and promote sharing, storing, and conserving water as needed during both shortages and surpluses; 
  • Establishing proactive basin operations by applying water delivery reductions when Lake Mead resorvoir conditions are low in order to deter more severe reductions in the future; 
  • Extending humanitarian measures from a 2010 agreement, Minute 318, to allow Mexico to defer delivery of a portion of its Colorado River allotment while it continues to make repairs to earthquake-damaged infrastructure; 
  • Establishing a program of Intentionally Created Mexican Allocation (ICMA) whereby Mexico could temporarily reduce its order of Colorado River water, allowing that water to be delivered to Mexico in the future; and 
  • Promoting the ecological health of the Colorado River Delta.”

These are the first steps toward more sustainable water management. As the agreement lasts only 5 years, I hope that a second agreement will be made with even more (and more detailed) adjustments to make the future of the Colorado River a fact. But the question remains: Are we acting fast enough?

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Climate change and the Colorado River basin

Climate change and the Colorado River basin

Based on the article by Jennifer Pitt of the Environmental Defense Fund for National Geographic.

“It’s not clear that the American Southwest can sustain an American style of agriculture, or for that matter an American style of lawn.”

Almost all climate change predictions say there will be problems for the Colorado River basin when the globe becomes warmer and dryer. Not all of these say the same about precipitation but they all agree that the amount of water available will decrease drastically.

The Bureau of Reclamation has assessed that the Colorado River flows would most likely decline by 8.7% by 2060. It means that 1,603,524,000 cubic meters of water will be lost. This will have a huge impact on the areas the Colorado River supplies water to.

Another problem is that the demand for water will increase, meaning that the area the basin can supply to will decrease. The prediction is an increase in demand as high as 616,740,000 cubic meters. This means the total deficit for the basin is 2,220,264,000 cubic meters. And this is not even the worst case scenario.

The American style of agriculture and the American style of lawn will definitely not sustain in the American Southwest. Changes need to be made.

Water footprints don’t stop at state borders

Water footprints don’t stop at state borders

Based on an article by Larry Buchanan, Josh Keller and Haeyoun Park of the New York Times

“The average American consumes more than 300 gallons of California water each week by eating food that was produced there.”

It’s not just the people whose water comes directly from the Colorado River Basin that contribute to the rapid drainage. Indirectly, whether they are aware of it or not, Americans from every state and even people from other countries around the globe contribute. The water footprints of people do not stop at the borders of the state or country these people live in.

A water footprint is the volume of fresh water appropriated to produce a product, taking into account the volumes of fresh water consumed and polluted in the different steps of the supply chain. When a consumer buys this product, they take the water footprint for this product with them.

For example, you live in Vermont and you consume a sliver of avocado produced in California, you take that avocado’s water footprint. That one sliver  takes around 4.1 gallons (15.5 liters) of water to produce. Now imagine how much water is needed for everything you consume.

The Colorado River Basin supplies its water to 40 million people, but in reality it supplies to many more.