Colorado River



Native, invasive, and endangered fish have been found dead between De Beque and Grand Junction. More from KDNK’s Morgan Neely.

Seven years ago, a pulse of water on the Colorado River at the U.S.-Mexico border temporarily reconnected it to the Pacific Ocean. Scientists used the so-called “pulse flow” to study what plant and animal life returned to the desiccated delta along with water.

Armed with that knowledge, scientists and conservation groups are trying a new and more targeted strategy to bring water back to the final 100 miles of the Colorado River this year.

Updated July 19, 2021:

Federal officials laid out details of how reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell will release water in an attempt to keep producing hydropower. On Friday the Bureau of Reclamation published new forecasts for reservoir operations in the Colorado River basin.

The Colorado River is tapped out.

Another dry year has left the waterway that supplies 40 million people in the Southwest parched. A prolonged 21-year warming and drying trend is pushing the nation’s two largest reservoirs to record lows. For the first time this summer, the federal government will declare a shortage.

Is the Colorado River Tapped Out?

Jul 2, 2021
Ron Reiring, Creative Commons


The Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs are likely to drop to historically low levels later this year, prompting mandatory conservation by some of the river’s heaviest users.

The latest Bureau of Reclamation reservoir projections, which take into account river flows in a given year, show a likelihood that Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada stateline will dip below the critical threshold of 1,075 feet in elevation in May and remain below that level for the foreseeable future.

The Fort Yuma-Quechan Indian Tribe is situated at a nexus in the Colorado River Basin.

That’s true in a geographic sense. The tribe’s reservation overlays the Arizona-California border near Yuma, Arizona. The two states are heavily reliant on water from the Colorado River.

The Colorado River is one of the most engineered river systems in the world. Over millions of years, the living creatures that call the river home have adapted to its natural variability, of seasonal highs and lows. But for the last century, they have struggled to keep up with rapid change in the river’s flows and ecology.

Viking

In December 2019, Bill Kight interviewed author John F. Ross about The Promise of the Grand Canyon: John Wesley Powell's Perilous Journey and His Vision for the American West.

Jessie Paul/Colorado Sun

Colorado plans to join other states opposing the fast-tracking of a major water project in Utah. This week’s News Brief features KDNK's Amy Hadden Marsh in conversation with Colorado Sun reporter Jason Blevins about his recent article on the issue

Charismatic is hardly the best word to describe the humpback chub, a fish with a frowny eel face jammed onto a sportfish body in a way that suggests evolution has a sense of humor. Nor did tastiness build a fan base for this "trash fish" across its natural habitat throughout the Colorado River Basin. But, in 1973, the humpback chub became famous by winning federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The water has made development possible and is used for farms, homes and businesses. Meanwhile, recreation has risen to over 4 million annual visitors in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, with tourists bringing in over $420 million to local communities.

A tight-lipped Western Colorado irrigation association is remaining neutral on the growing presence of private investors in their sizable pool of senior water rights.

When the Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1966, it was a major development for water management in the arid west. It would also transform Glen Canyon, sometimes described as America's "lost national park," into the second largest man-made reservoir in the country.

In Nevada, Investors Eye Underground Water Storage As A Path To Profits

Jun 12, 2020

Twenty-two miles outside of the nearest town (Wells, pop. 1,246), graffiti on a crumbling hotel wall reads: "Home on the Strange." Down a dirt road, there's an abandoned car. An arch stands at the entrance of a dilapidated school. It's what is left of a town that lost most of its water rights.

Around the turn of the last century, New York investors established Metropolis, Nevada as a farming community. By 1912, they had constructed a dam. They built a hotel, a school and an events center. The Southern Pacific Railroad constructed an office and built a line to the town.

Then the water ran dry.

Central Arizona has been booming -- more people, more houses, more need for water. There's also a long-term drought, and less water to buy from the Central Arizona Project canal system . It's leading Phoenix exurbs to cast about, looking for new buckets.

Other regions of the state say: don't come here.

NICK COTE FOR KUNC/LIGHTHAWK

Water agencies throughout the West are changing their operations during the coronavirus outbreak to make sure cities and farms don't run dry. Their responses range from extreme measures to modest adjustments to ensure their most critical workers don't succumb to the virus.

Coal-fired power plants are closing, or being given firm deadlines for closure, across the country. In the Western states that make up the overallocated and drought-plagued Colorado River, these facilities use a significant amount of the region's scarce water supplies.

With closure dates looming, communities are starting the contentious debate about how this newly freed up water should be put to use.

A warming climate is already causing river flows in the Southwest’s largest watershed to decline, according to a new study from federal scientists. And it finds that as warming continues it’s likely to get worse. 

Utah Plans Water Pipeline from Lake Powell

Feb 3, 2020
Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration has fast-tracked one of the largest new water projects on the Colorado River. KDNK's Amy Hadden Marsh has this report.

The federal government is now taking comments on alternatives to a project in western Colorado notorious for causing earthquakes. 

The Bureau of Reclamation is looking for replacements for the Paradox Valley Unit, located in a remote part of western Colorado’s Montrose County. The agency released a draft environmental impact statement for those replacements Friday. 

The West’s water security is wrapped up in snow. When it melts, it becomes drinking and irrigation water for millions throughout the region. A high snowpack lets farmers, skiers and water managers breathe a sigh of relief, while a low one can spell long-term trouble.

Students from Aspen to New Castle gathered at Third Street Center for the Third Annual Healthy Rivers Youth Water Summit. KDNKs Amy Hadden Marsh and Lucas Turner were at the event, and have the details.

Viking

Bill Kight interviews author John F. Ross about The Promise of the Grand Canyon: John Wesley Powell's Perilous Journey and His Vision for the American West.

Patrick Johnson closed on 2,500 acres in Pinal County over five years ago. The property, just off Interstate 8, is mostly farm fields right now. Johnson’s plan is to build a dream spot for motorsports lovers, including two tracks for racing or testing, 2,000 homes, and a hotel. 

But millions of dollars in, Johnson is a long way from a grand opening.

Today was the third annual Healthy Rivers Youth Water Summit. Students from six local schools met at Third Street Center in Carbondale to share presentations on topics like Health of the Roaring Fork River, Impacts of Snowmaking, Hydro Power, Grey-Water Use and more. Sarah Johnson is the director of the Youth Water Leadership Program, the group that organizes the event. She spoke about what makes this year’s summit stand out.

As climate change continues to sap the Colorado River’s water, some users face serious legal risks to their supplies, according to a new analysis by researchers in Colorado and New Mexico. 

Declining flows could force Southwest water managers to confront long-standing legal uncertainties, and threaten the water security of Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

Earlier this year, Arizona -- one of seven southwestern states that rely on the Colorado River -- was in the midst of a heated discussion about water.

“It’s time to protect Lake Mead and Arizona,” the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, said in his state of the state address in January 2019. He spoke to lawmakers in the midst of uncomfortable, emotional discussions at the statehouse in Phoenix about who gets access to water in the arid West, and who doesn’t. 

Updated 11/6/19 at 3:13 p.m.

Proposition DD has passed with 50.7% of the vote, according to unofficial vote totals from the Colorado Secretary of State's office. The Associated Press called the race Wednesday afternoon. Starting May 2020 the state will be regulating and taxing sports gambling in the state, with the vast majority of revenue set aside for projects and programs laid out in the Colorado Water Plan. 

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