Chas Jones, Ph.D.

Death of the Colorado River

Satellite image of the Colorado River: Source ProPublica

The Death of the Colorado River

The Colorado River is over-allocated. Less water is falling from the skies. Water is undervalued and not priced appropriately. We don’t track our water use appropriately (and we are perfectly aware of this). Farmers in the west are encouraged to use water inefficiently (thus their future water rights are not in danger of being lost). Not to mention that the politics of reigning in our wanton waste of this finite resource make it a seemingly impossible task.

Water resources in the western U.S. are at risk. Our groundwater and surface water resources are both at risk. The Colorado River is at risk. Propublica recently published an extensive article on the Killing of the Colorado River. It is well-written and a worthy read. The New York Times also published an excerpt of the Propublica article.  Both are worth reading.

How can we possibly manage our water use when our state politicians blatantly write laws that limit our ability to measure water consumption? How can we manage our water supplies when we aren’t allowed to measure two halves of a whole? (In California, surface water consumption is measured very diligently, but laws have been passed that do not allow for groundwater consumption to be monitored, despite the fact that in many cases, these are two halves of the same pie. We have to measure both to have a comprehensive understanding of the amount of water we are using.)

An unlined irrigation ditch. Source ProPublica

We need to measure groundwater pumping rates. We need to measure the aquifer and stream responses to groundwater pumping. We need to charge a reasonable fee for those water resources.  Without drastic actions, we will lose the water war. Well, at least the common people will lose the war, while watching industry, agriculture, and the other “water elites” blatantly waste our shared water resources.  Read more about the Death of the Colorado River at Propublica.

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