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Colorado River Update: Is the California drought the “new normal?”

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Over the last few weeks, all eyes have focused on California and the epic drought that is hammering the state. You may have seen the news that Governor Brown issued an brown-drought-abcexecutive order that all residential water agencies need to decrease their water use by  25%. This order falls in a long line of drought and water conservation measures that the state and cities have taken over the last 2 years. But will it be enough? And is it fair?

Recall, all of Southern California receives water from the Colorado River. In fact, Southern California and the farms in Imperial County east of San Diego, are the single biggest user of Colorado River water, consuming a quarter (1/4th) of the entire flow of the river!

As California struggles through this drought, a firestorm of controversy has erupted over how the Governor’s order impacts, or doesn’t impact, various water users. As three examples: 1) activist groups throughout the state are calling for an end to fracking — that high-water use technique to extract oil and gas. If people are forced to take shorter showers, should water be used for fracking? And 2) what about farming? Various groups and stakeholders are claiming that while the Governor cutback homeowners’ water use, high-water crops like almonds and pistachios continue to proliferate across the state. Sally-Jewell-010Further, parts of California are still growing rice (which is a crop made to grow in monsoon areas), and are still growing massive amounts of alfalfa hay that is shipped to China to feed dairy cows. Finally, 3) other groups have asked the Governor to clamp down on the bottled water industry. ABC News discusses some of these issues in this TV segment here which includes a lengthy interview with Governor Brown.

What is Save The Colorado’s response to all of this? First, we encourage everyone to not think of the California drought as a temporary phenomenon, but rather as the “new normal.” We are in an extended drought in the Southwest U.S., and NASA scientists tell us that this drought could evolve into a MEGADROUGHT due to the impacts of climate change. Over a year ago, Sally Jewell who is Secretary of Interior, referred to the Colorado River drought as the “new normal” and we agree with her.

Second, the ongoing drought in the Colorado River basin and the extreme drought in n-JOHN-HICKENLOOPER-large570California continues to highlight how insane it is to propose diverting even more water out of the already extremely depleted Colorado River. As we have noted to you several times, the biggest threat to the Colorado River has come from the upstream states—Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico – with their proposals and plans to take even more water out of the river. Specifically, in recent water planning processes, Colorado proposed $20 billion worth of dam and reservoir projects, Utah proposed at least $15 billion, Wyoming proposed “10 dams in 10 years” and New Mexico endorsed a billion-dollar water project. It’s like these states are engaging in Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), where every stakeholder is fighting to get the last river-destroying drops of water out of the system. Save The Colorado oppose all new projects that want to take more water out of the Colorado River.

What can you do to help? Two things:
1. May 1st is the deadline to send in comments opposing the State of Colorado’s Water Plan. This plan proposes a massive number of new dams and water projects across the state costing billions of dollars. Please click through here to send an email to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

2. Join Save The Colorado! By joining our organization, you help us get legal standing to fight these bad water projects all across the Colorado River basin. And when you join, we send you a t-shirt. Click here to join and get a t-shirt.

Thank you for your attention and support! Stay tuned for more action!

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