Leaders from American Whitewater and the Colorado River Outfitters Association traveled to our Nations capital today to present an engraved kayak paddle to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to recognize his leadership in finding win-win solutions for the Colorado River.
The paddle was presented by American Whitewater’s Nathan Fey and Mark Singleton, and David Costlow from the Colorado River Outfitters Association at a private ceremony in the Secretary’s office. The following message was engraved on the paddle: “Thank You for balancing the needs of fish, wildlife and people in the Colorado River Basin.”
“We need to find a way to balance the little water we have to meet the needs of people, recreation and the fish that depend on the river,” said Dave Costlow with the Colorado River Outfitters Association. “It’s all about finding the right balance and as the Secretary says, choosing ‘consensus over controversy.'”
Right now, the Interior Department and seven basin states are completing the first-ever Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. The study is examining current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the basin over the next 50 years, assessing the risks to vital river resources such as climate change, and developing a long-term strategy to conserve and stretch the river’s supply to meet current and projected needs for recreation, agriculture, tourism, cities, and the environment.
“The strain of decreased supply and increased demand doesn’t have to force a false choice between letting the Colorado become a trickle or denying people the water they need to consume,” said Nathan Fey, Director of American Whitewater’s Colorado Stewardship Program. He continued, “We believe Secretary Salazar will continue to apply innovation and common sense to finding a way to keep a healthy amount of water in the Colorado River.”
Climate change, population growth, and 11 consecutive years of drought have stretched water supplies to the near limit in almost every part of the river basin. Americans have gulped their way through the water in storage such that our reservoir system today is almost half empty. As demonstrated in a recent U.S. Department of Interior study, demand for the river’s water for agriculture, growing cities, recreation and wildlife habitat now exceeds its supply.
With 30 million people wanting a share of the river’s five trillion gallons for agriculture, drinking water and electricity over the last decade the Colorado has run dry in the Sonoran Desert miles before it reaches the sea.