Supply and demand meet on the Colorado River.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — With the Colorado River District’s annual State of the River meeting coming up in less than a month, I’ve been looking for information related to the Colorado River that might help provide some context for the presentations.
I didn’t have to go far to find this graph that appears to tell the story of the river better than thousands of words ever could. It’s a basic supply and demand graph, apparently produced by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and it should be familiar to anyone who has ever taken economics 101. The top pink line shows how much water is in the river, the blue line starting on the lower left shows the demand and usage of Colorado River Water. Simple enough, it would seem, until you notice that the two lines have crossed each other.
What that means is there is more demand than there is water in the river, at least based on a 10-year running average. I happened upon the graph at John Fleck’s environmental blog under the Riverbeat section. The New Mexico-based journalist wrote that the graph has turned up at several recent high-profile water shindigs, as resource managers and residents of the greater Colorado River Basin grapple with the fundamental question: How do we reconcile that increased demand with what appears to be a shrinking supply?
It’ll be worth attending the May 12 river meeting in Frisco, just to see if the graph shows up at there, too.
An age of limits?
Sticking with the same theme, Writers on the Range columnist Dan McCool points out that climate scientists are predicting a 10 to 30 percent reduction in Colorado River flows in the coming decades, and that some researchers say there’s a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead and Lake Powell have a 50 percent chance of going dry by 2021. Both reservoirs are about half full these days. Despite all that, several large-scale water development projects keep rearing up, including Aaron Million’s plan to pipe Green River water from Wyoming to the Front Range.
McCool characterizes the “grandiose schemes” as the last gasp of a dying ethos, and warns that Western water policy is “hopelessly, irrevocably unsustainable” in an age of limits.
Dam-builder Dominy dies
In a different era, when engineers turned those grandiose schemes into reality, the biggest figure on the scene was Floyd Dominy, who died last week at the age of 100.
Dominy called Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell the crowning achievement of his career with the Bureau of Reclamation. Writers on the Range columnist Julianne Couch writes about Dominy here, and the Bureau of Reclamation noted his passing here. More information is also available at Waterhistory.org.
Filed under: Environment, rivers, Summit County Colorado | Tagged: Bob Berwyn, Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado River, Floyd Dominy, natural resources, rivers, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, water, water conservation | 3 Comments »