“Politicians over-appropriated the water in the river in the 20th-century boom to create dams and canals in the Southwest. These water diversions helped develop the booming cities of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino in Southern California, Tucson and Phoenix in Arizona, and Las Vegas,” John Fleck, who teaches water policy at the University of New Mexico, told U.S. News in December.
Loss of snowpack
The U.S. Geological Survey says the loss of snowpack in the Rockies has contributed to a 16 percent decline in the river’s flow between the years 2000 and 2017. USGS believes it will worsen by 2050 as the climate warms.
Compounding the problem with warmer temperature, the U.S. Census Bureau expects a 53 percent increase in population by the year 2030 in the Colorado River basin states. Population growth will place even more demand on waters from the Colorado River and its tributaries.
Unless we take action to reduce consumption and continue to clean up polluted waters, there won’t be enough water to go around — whether it be from the Colorado or other rivers. It is not an issue we can kick ahead.
For the Colorado River users, the day of reckoning may come as soon as 2026, when the multistate Colorado River Compact will get its first makeover since 1999. It will have to account for the effects of climate change, drought, population growth and agriculture. However, that may not be soon enough. We should act before we find ourselves in the same predicament.
The bottom line is we need to figure out how to get more from less.
“Water does cover 70 percent of the Earth but only 2.5 percent of it is fresh water, and if you break it down further, there’s only about 0.006 percent fresh water available in the world,” said Jose Lopez, assistant professor of physics at Seton Hall University.
However, as our population grows, so does pressure on water supplies.