Partnership To Help Manage Colorado River Through Climate Change

September 29, 2014
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Partnership To Help Manage Colorado River Through Climate Change

Laurel Morales
A group of tourists stand at the bottom of the dam looking up. It took over 400,000 buckets of concrete, each holding 24 tons, to build the dam.

The U.S. Interior Secretary visited the Glen Canyon Dam Saturday to celebrate its 50th anniversary. She also had another very important agenda item -- the vulnerability of the Colorado River and its water supply.

The Glen Canyon Dam is one of several dams on the Colorado River that are critical in supplying water and electricity for much of the Southwest’s cities and farms.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said it will take the cooperation of the seven Colorado River Basin states to ensure the resource thrives.

“And they all have people that want the water and there hasn’t been enough water to go around lately,” Jewell said. “Lowest flow rate into the Colorado River in these last 14-15 years that we’ve seen over a 1200 paleo record.”

The Interior Department recently released a study that showed there’s going to be a significant shortfall between the Colorado River’s supply and demand in the coming decade. And it’s going to be compounded by climate change.

The states, federal agencies, tribes and other stakeholders are part of a group that makes recommendations to the secretary on how to manage the river.

For the past five years, Assistant Secretary Anne Castle has been a part of that group. She said the Colorado River is the most volatile, the most dammed, the most litigated and now the most threatened river in the United States.

“We have to operate this dam in a way that’s sensitive to the fact that 40 million people in the Southwest depend on this dam whether they know it or not but they’re counting on us to get that balance right,” Castle said.

The group plans to release a Glen Canyon Dam management proposal this winter that addresses drought and climate change.