Author: Amy

Water Supply in the Colorado River Basin

Water Supply in the Colorado River Basin

Facing Colorado River shortage, 30 urban suppliers pledge to target decorative grass

In recent years, the Colorado River has been experiencing some of its worst-ever problems. Since 2010, the river has been lower by about half, and has had some serious droughts. Those problems, in combination with a lack of supply in agriculture, have caused a decline in water-conserving irrigation. Now, a new wave of low rainfall has pushed farmers to turn to the Colorado River for irrigation, and the pressure has risen so high that some agriculture groups have started to question the need for keeping the river at its highest flow.

That pressure has forced the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to consider changes to the irrigation and water-sharing schedules in the Colorado River Basin. After a series of meetings that stretched on for days, a coalition of 30 urban suppliers committed to taking steps to meet their share of a projected $5.3 billion Colorado River shortfall. (See “In Denver, some farmers say they need a new approach to the river” [PDF] for a summary of those talks.)

The problem is the same as it has been nearly every year from 2009 to 2012: the demand for water in the Colorado River Basin exceeds available supply. In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s 2013 annual report said that water supplies in the Colorado River Basin had not changed since 2012, when supplies were lower than they are now. “Overall, the basin is experiencing low storage, declining groundwater tables and increasing demands from the development of agriculture,” said the report. “As groundwater and surface water supplies continue to decline, and irrigation development continues at a higher rate, this shortage is likely to continue to increase. The combination of a declining water supply and a demand that is likely to continue to grow is a critical opportunity to address.”

In December, a survey of urban suppliers by the University of Colorado’s Water Center found that a total of 1,005 supply sources said they were willing to work with the federal Bureau of Reclamation to keep the Colorado River at its highest flow. In fact, most of the survey�

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