On April 16, the conservation group American Rivers named the Colorado River the most endangered waterway in the U.S. That came within days of the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s water supply forecast, which offered up the bad news that Lake Mead is at just 71 percent of average capacity. Then came news reports that the Southern Nevada Water Authority is planning a delivery-charge increase that may or may not (depending on whom you ask) affect customers.
What are we to make of it all? The Great Basin Water Network connected the dots with a line from Spring Valley in eastern Nevada to Las Vegas—the route of the SNWA’s planned pipeline for transferring water from the rural area to the city.
“The problem we have is the diminishing of Lake Mead,” said Steve Erickson, Utah representative on the Water Network’s board. “The SNWA’s solution with the water pipeline is one that we find unacceptable. We’d like to see solutions that deal with the problems of management of the river itself.”
Indeed, American Rivers says the cause of the Colorado’s endangerment is antiquated management that over-allocates existing water without taking into account reduced replenishment due to drought. In December, a Bureau of Reclamation report suggested climate change could mean 10-20 percent less water in the Colorado Basin by mid-century.
If only innovative solutions for our dearth of H2O were as ubiquitous as dire warnings about its disappearance. Environmentalists recommend conservation, desalination and smarter growth. But it’s up to the likes of SNWA General Manager and master dealmaker Pat Mulroy to move policy from water-swap mode to something a little more 21st century.