In advance of a U.S. Senate hearing on the Colorado River’s dwindling water supply, the sportsmen’s group Trout Unlimited today urged lawmakers to help launch a new era of collaboration and partnerships to maintain river health and meet diverse water needs into the future.
“We thank Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), for initiating these hearings, and we urge senators to seize the opportunity to move past the status quo for Colorado River water management,” said Scott Yates, director of TU’s Western Water Project. “Trout Unlimited is committed to proactive, pragmatic solutions. We’ve put these solutions to work throughout the West, by partnering with agricultural producers and private landowners on win-win efficiency upgrades and habitat restoration projects.”
In late 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its long-awaited Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, a multi-year effort to assess water use and availability in one of the West’s most important river basins. The study found that water demand in recent years is already outpacing river flows. The future looks even more challenging, with an 8-9 percent reduction in flows forecast by 2060, due to climate change, persistent drought and other factors.
The July 16 Senate subcommittee hearings— following the Interior Department’s “Next Steps” study of options for meeting water needs and river health—will feature testimony on potential solutions, including agricultural and municipal conservation measures and infrastructure upgrades to ensure healthy flows in the Colorado River Basin.
“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and make the tough decisions for the river’s future,” said Russ Schnitzer, agriculture policy advisor for Trout Unlimited. “We know what’s needed—increased collaboration and partnerships among water stakeholders, including municipalities, industry, farmers and ranchers, and sportsmen. We’re all in this together.”
Trout Unlimited, he noted, already partners with the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal agencies such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help bring innovative irrigation system upgrades to private lands, ranches, and farms—projects that also restore fragmented and depleted streams, benefiting trout habitat and fishing.
“We know this collaborative model works—we’ve seen it in in scores of projects across the West,” said Schnitzer.
Schnitzer noted that TU and other groups have highlighted a range of inexpensive, pragmatic options—including conservation, reuse, and water sharing—that will help meet water needs and sustain growth without sacrificing our rivers and outdoor heritage. He urged the U.S. Senate hearing to take action to encourage and incentivize stakeholders to put those proven strategies into practice.
“Irrigation efficiency projects, habitat reconnection and restoration, and improving instream flow conditions are the kind of low-hanging fruit that can benefit multiple interests,” said Schnitzer.
“There are special places in the Colorado Basin that are central to our quality of life in the West—places like the Green River, the headwaters of the Upper Colorado near Kremmling, the Gunnison and the Yampa. They are icons for Western fly fishing, and they are anchored by multi-generational farms and ranches. Our challenge is to keep our rivers flowing and healthy so they’ll remain a resource and legacy for our children and grandchildren. Working together, we can get the job done.”
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization, boasting 150,000 members from coast to coast. For more information about TU, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or visit us at www.tu.org.