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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” situation 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 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 improve Colorado River Basin resilience to local weather change with improved outcomes for individuals and nature.
The Colorado River is known for supporting the expansion of the American West, to the purpose the place at this time it provides 40 million individuals and underpins an economic 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 don’t 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 essential 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 timber and diminished habitat worth. With much less native habitat obtainable, a minimum of six breeding chook species that depend on the Colorado River Basin, together with the Bell’s Vireo, Summer season Tanager, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow Warbler, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, have skilled vital inhabitants declines.
Instant water conservation is required to forestall 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 fancy 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 an entire and work collaboratively to outline options. Right here’s what Audubon needs to see (for a extra full dialogue, see our letter):
- Prioritization of Mexico’s position in Colorado River administration
- A broad objective and wish for the federal rulemaking, to make sure it serves the total vary of stakeholders, not simply water rights holders
- Sound science
- Trustworthy analysis and communication about obtainable reservoir water provides
- Determination-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