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2014: What will it mean for the Colorado River?

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Happy New Year To All!  As the year gets underway we wanted to highlight a few issues that will likely be big news items in 2014 for the Colorado River. First the bad news:

The ongoing drought — which many scientists suggest may actually be the onset of “climate change” in the basin — is expected to continue to be the top story and challenge in the Colorado River basin in 2014.  In fact, on Monday January 6th, the New York Times’ front page story was titled:  “Colorado River Drought Forces A Painful Reckoning For The States.”  Click through and read it.  As we have noted in past emails to you, and through our social media channels, the water levels in Lakes Mead and Powell continue to drop with no end in sight, the demands on the river continue to increase with no end in sight, and drought/climate continues to escalate.  A day of reckoning is very, very likely approaching — the plumbing system on the Colorado River is no longer sustainable for water supply delivery, let alone for any semblense of a healthy river.  To drive this point home, a very prominent White House news correspondent, Paul Brandus, who has nearly 200,000 twitter followers posted a story on New Year’s Day titled, “5 Things You Should Worry About In 2014” one of which was “Our Shrinking Water Supply” on the Colorado River.  Read it here.

Even more bad news on the same topic:  In March of 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is going to release its “regional reports” which will predict how climate change will impact specific regions of the earth.  Images that have been made public show predictions for increased drought and drying throughout the Southwest U.S. These predictions from the IPCC correlate strongly with all other climate modeling that has been done by American scientists and water providers throughout the Colorado River basin.  Yes, we may have wet years here and there, and we can even still have biblical floods, but the prognosis is that drought is likely to be permanent.  In December of 2013 at the Colorado River Water Users Association meeting, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell called this the “new normal” on the Colorado River.

Now for a little good news!  2014 is very likely to be the year when we see the governments of the United States and Mexico collaborate on releasing water out of Morales Dam on the border and down into the Colorado River Delta.  Scientists are now working to create a “pulse flow” release from the dam to give a short-term flood into the dried-up river bed.  Recall, the Colorado River no longer reaches the Gulf of California — all 5 trillion gallons are drained out every year by cities and farms in the U.S. and Mexico.  In 2012, the two countries reached a historic agreement to put some water back in the river, and now in 2014 we are going to see the outcome of that agreement.  It will be a historic day to see water released from this dam.  Save The Colorado will be following the story closely (and maybe we’ll be in a raft at the bottom of the dam?!) and keeping you posted.  Check out this news article, “Man-made Flood Could Help Revive Colorado River Wetlands,” posted on Livescience.com and this National Geographic post, “Scientists Plan For Grand Experiment In The Colorado River Delta” by Sandra Postel.

2014 will also offer lots of stories in the state of Colorado around the Governor’s “Colorado Water Plan,” and around several dam and reservoir projects moving through permitting processes in the Denver area.  In addition, Utah is still a hotbed of river chaos with proposed projects and a “State Water Plan” also in the works.  Finally, Southern California has faced the worst 1-year drought in history in 2013 causing the region to rethink and rework its water supply system.  We will cover all of these stories and more and let you know how to help and take action.

Stay tuned for more updates and action items!  It’s going to be an exciting year on the Colorado River!

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