Sustainability of regional water supplies at stake
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A federal focus on water issues and climate change is paying dividends in the Colorado River Basin, where, under the WaterSMART program, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has made 15 grants to various organizations to improve water and energy efficiency and to develop climate-change analysis tools.
Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Anne Castle discussed the WaterSMART efforts last week at the annual Colorado River Water Users Association Conference.
A recent WaterSMART report is online at www.usbr.gov/watersmart. It highlights scientific efforts underway in the Colorado River Basin such as the USGS Water Census, the newly formed Southwest Climate Science Center, established by the USGS at the University of Arizona, and Reclamation’s ongoing Basin Supply and Demand Study.
Through the latter study, Reclamation has partnered with the Colorado River Basin states to identify and analyze supply and demand imbalances within the basin. An interim report was released in June and a final report is expected to be complete in July 2012.
“The Colorado River Basin has really served as a pilot project area to test and demonstrate the various tools available through WaterSMART to address water supply and demand imbalances around the nation,” said Castle. “The report issued today demonstrates the diversity and significance of the activities undertaken by the Department in cooperation with the states, local governments, Tribes and others to sustain Colorado River resources for people, the economy, and the environment.”
Many important water rights settlement agreements have been signed and are being implemented resolving tribal water right claims and protecting basin state water supplies. Work is underway to fulfill settlement requirements including the construction of the Navajo-Gallup Pipeline Project and construction of the White Mountain Apache Tribe rural water system.
In addition, Reclamation released its SECURE Water Act Report in April 2011, which analyzes the impacts of climate change on the Colorado River Basin and other major river systems. Reclamation and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service are leading the Southern Rockies and Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, two of the 21 cooperatives created to address the impacts of climate change on America’s water, land and other natural and cultural resources.
River restoration efforts through the Upper Colorado River and San Juan River Recovery Programs, and the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program are making significant strides in recovering listed and native fish species and protecting current and future water uses within the Colorado River Basin.
WaterSMART recognizes the connection between energy uses and water uses and emphasizes the need to continue to develop sources of renewable energy. Hydropower is the nation’s primary source of renewable energy, and Reclamation is improving operational efficiencies at existing hydropower generation facilities, and looking into integration of hydropower production with other renewable resources.