A projected water-supply gap of 3.2 million acre-feet could leave as many homes thirsty by the year 2060 in the seven Colorado River Basin states of Wyoming, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.
According to denverwater.org
, an acre-foot is enough to supply about 2.5 households water for one year, but other estimates, like those used by the Department of the Interior, lean toward a 1-1 ratio.
"It's fair to say that the demand has already outstripped supplies within the lower basin," said Ted Kowalski, section chief for the Colorado Water Conservation Board who worked on the study.
Kowalski explained that demand in states in the lower river basin exceeds their entitlement to the river's water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact and Law of the River.
The nearly three-year study began in January 2010 as a joint effort of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and representatives of the Colorado River basin states.
A population in the basin states that could double to 35 million by 2060 will contribute to the increased water use and supply imbalance, Kowalski said. Additionally, climate change could lead to greater agricultural water consumption. Growing energy use like hydraulic fracturing also could stress water supplies.
"There's no silver bullet to solve the imbalance between the demand for water and the supply in the Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years — rather, it's going to take diligent planning and collaboration from all stakeholders to identify and move forward with practical solutions," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and this study provides a solid platform to explore actions we can take toward a sustainable water future."
Salazar will deliver remarks on the study Friday at the Colorado River Water Users Association's annual conference in Las Vegas.
Interestingly, the study points to in-basin studies for solutions through means like desalinization and conservation rather than trans-basin conveyance systems, like a proposed pipeline from Wyoming's Flaming Gorge to Colorado's Front Range
, which are seen as impractical and expensive.
Western Resource Advocates, based in Boulder, Colo. said the study showed the need for conservation and reuse of water. The environmental group suggested that local and state governments mandate that all residential developments be built with high-efficiency shower-heads, faucets and toilets.
"The point of the Basin Study is to figure out how we can provide enough water for current and future residents," said Drew Beckwith, the conservation group's water policy manager. "The sooner we get moving on conservation policies, the sooner we can start chipping away at that number; time is water."
The full study — including a discussion of the methodologies and levels of uncertainty — is available at www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy.html
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