Across the West, water shortages are on everyone's mind. Rivers are drying. Temperatures are above normal. Water supply and the health of our rivers tops the list of issues that Westerners are very concerned about.
When we come up short, our first reaction is to get more. On a river, this means building diversions or dams which impede a river's natural flows. In the past, our approach has been piping billions of gallons of water across river basins to support growing communities and agriculture.
There is another long-term solution that has overwhelming support among Westerners -- water conservation. This solution recognizes that healthy rivers are critical to our economy, and our quality of life, and need to be protected for future generations. Help build the wave -- tell our elected officials to bring our rivers back from the brink and prioritize water conservation for all water users as a solution to meet future needs.
Dear Secretary Jewell:
CC: Governors AZ, CO, NM
America’s iconic Western rivers are at historic lows. This year the Colorado River was nominated as America’s most endangered river and stretches of the Rio Grande through New Mexico will slow to a trickle. Man-made diversions for crop production and drinking water are increasingly altering natural river flows with cascading impacts for riparian forests and wetlands, songbirds, native fish and other wildlife. In December, 2012, the Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study was released highlighting the significant challenges facing the Colorado River Basin. Please insure that water conservation and sound management practices are given top priority status in developing solutions to protect water for all users.
Agriculture is the biggest use of the West’s available water supply. Cities use a much smaller amount, but the demand increases with population growth. Between the two uses, river systems have little water left to support the free services that Western communities depend on. We can’t replace with engineering what rivers offer—clean water, flood storage, and the unique classic Western riverscapes that draw in billions of dollars from outdoor recreation and tourism. Biologically rich tributaries to the Colorado River like the Gila River in NM, the San Pedro in AZ and the Fraser River in CO are under immense threat of additional diversions and groundwater pumping for increased urban and agricultural growth.
Westerners understand conservation. The long-term solution to a sustainable supply of water for the west starts with water conservation involving all users, not additional diversions.
There is a lot more we can do to use water more efficiently including water efficient land development and landscape designs, rebates for water efficient appliances, increasing water rates for water consumed above basic human needs, replacing outdated municipal and agricultural water infrastructure to reduce losses and leaks, on-farm metering, and soil-moisture monitoring sensors.
With overwhelming public support for water conservation, please support programs that emphasize sustainable management and protect our water supplies and our Western rivers.