LETTER TO THE EDITOR – Water Managers Ron Thompson and Don Christiansen offered a short sighted rebuttal to Glen Canyon Institute’s Fill Mead First proposal. This rebuttal fails to interpret the peer reviewed hydrological research and the underlying logic of Fill Mead First. Lake Powell and Lake Mead sit half empty. Glen Canyon Dam hydropower production is projected to be 38 percent below capacity in 2014. Las Vegas has declared a state of emergency. And it is only going to get worse.
The only certainty in the new normal of climate change on the Colorado River is that continuing our current path of mismanagement and expecting different results is truly insane. As we seek solutions to the impending crisis we must re-examine our broken system and pursue new paths based on scientific analysis. The Colorado River storage system was developed in the age of dams. Consequences to ecosystems below the dam in the Grand Canyon were not fully understood. Availability of Colorado River water was even less understood.
Glen Canyon Dam was the Upper Basin’s response to “protect” our water resources. So how is that working for us? Recent peer reviewed research demonstrates that storing water in this leaky basin results in a net loss of 300,000 acre-feet of water annually due to seepage. Our Lake Powell bank account is losing 2 percent of its value every year. Is this protecting our future or gross mismanagement of a finite resource?
The Fill Mead First plan can be a part of the solution to the crisis we face. Despite the imaginary division of upper and lower Colorado River basins, the Colorado is only one river. A shortage anywhere on the river, has impacts on the entire basin. The time to come to the table and discuss possible solutions is now, while there is still room to negotiate.
Water managers in Utah regularly invoke the bogeyman of the lower basin intent on stealing our water. Yet, they have not crafted any strategic tactic beyond development of existing rights for wasteful water projects to be built at any cost. Implementation of a Fill Mead First protocol would be a step towards adoption of a basin wide water ethic built upon net gain solutions. Negotiations could be made that would provide Utah with significant ongoing benefits in exchange for the stability of Lake Mead elevations. Fill Mead First is not a “surrender” of Utah’s water – it is a strategic advance towards system stability.
Utah’s “best interests” are being looked out for by a small group of vested interests. These interests have just recently embraced the reality of climate change. They ignore the Bureau of Reclamations’ study showing the river is grossly over allocated. They rely on a make-believe Colorado Basin division to protect our resources in the face of crisis. This is not a strategy for success, only maintenance of the status quo. Ignoring science and strategy at this critical time is not in Utah’s best interest.
Submitted by Christi Wedig, Executive Director | Glen Canyon Institute
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