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Audubon is deeply involved about present Colorado River situations, a disaster within the making for birds and folks. Present authorities modeling exhibits the potential throughout the subsequent 24 months, there may very well be a “day zero” state of affairs the place reservoir water provides fall a lot that main dams are unable to reliably launch water. This places communities and wildlife in danger. We just lately responded to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (USBR) request for feedback on their upcoming course of to ascertain new guidelines for Colorado River administration (“pre-scoping for post-2026 Colorado River Reservoir Operational Methods for Lake Powell and Lake Mead Underneath Traditionally Low Reservoir Situations”), making the case for good governance that may enhance Colorado River Basin resilience to local weather change with improved outcomes for individuals and nature.
The Colorado River is famous for supporting the expansion of the American West, to the purpose the place right now it provides 40 million individuals and underpins an financial system exceeding $1 trillion. Nonetheless, thirty sovereign Tribes which were within the basin since time immemorial haven’t been included in administration discussions, and in lots of instances should not have entry to their Colorado River water rights.
The river and its tributaries are additionally the muse of life within the area, important in supporting greater than 70 p.c of all wildlife. The riparian forest that strains the waterways of the Colorado River Basin gives crucial habitat for birds, together with 400 species alongside the Decrease Colorado River alone. Scores of dams and diversions have altered river flows, leading to invasive shrubs which have changed native bushes and diminished habitat worth. With much less native habitat accessible, at the very least six breeding chook species that depend on the Colorado River Basin, together with the Bell’s Vireo, Summer time Tanager, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow Warbler, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, have skilled important inhabitants declines.
Quick water conservation is required to stop the near-term disaster, however the situations driving the disaster will not be anticipated to abate, pointing to the necessity for structural adjustments in Colorado River administration. To attain structural adjustments in such a posh and excessive stakes setting would require USBR and all Colorado River stakeholders—the Tribes, states, native governments, water customers, and environmental and leisure pursuits—to view the basin as a complete and work collaboratively to outline options. Right here’s what Audubon desires to see (for a extra full dialogue, see our letter):
- Prioritization of Mexico’s function in Colorado River administration
- A broad function and wish for the federal rulemaking, to make sure it serves the complete vary of stakeholders, not simply water rights holders
- Sound science
- Trustworthy analysis and communication about accessible reservoir water provides
- Resolution-making that anticipates unsure future situations
- Administration that avoids crises
- Precedence given to water provide reliability
- Analysis of the distinction between water shortages and voluntary, compensated reductions in water use
- Elevated flexibility in Colorado River administration
- Precedence given to environmental water wants and environmental justice
- Consideration for a way administration choices will work together with different responses to situations on the Colorado River