The West
4:19 pm
Thu December 13, 2012

Using Icebergs or Just Conservation to Deal with the West's Water Problem

Federal officials say rising demand and failing supply pose a risk of water shortages over the next 50 years for some 40 million people, including Native Americans, businesses, ranchers, and farmers in seven western states dependent on the Colorado River.

A two-year study on western water use was released Wednesday by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar during a Colorado River Water Users Association conference.

Kerry Bringhurst tells us a related study encourages conservation and re-use programs as ways to meet western water demands.

Water administrators and state officials from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming have been considering a range of out-of-the-box ideas, such as piping water from the nation's heartland and towing Arctic icebergs south.

Western Resource Advocates, or WRA, is a conservation organization that is encouraging the seven basin states and the Bureau of Reclamation to begin now to implement conservation and re-use programs.

"Water is a finite resource. The problem isn't that we need to figure out new pipelines or new delivery mechanisms. We need to start figuring out a way to use less water so that the increase in population can be served."

WRA's Jason Bane says, for example, local and state governments should mandate that all new residential developments be built using high efficient fixtures to cut indoor water use.

The group also blames climate change as impacting future supply and demand of water in the Colorado River Basin and is encouraging funding of programs that would meet the Bureau of Reclamation's suggestion to focus on "practical solutions" as to provide enough water for current and future residents. Bane says the study supports the group's recommendations.

"Which is a really encouraging sign. There are a lot of these projects that don't take a lot of money, that aren't going to require a lot of political will to implement. It's just sort of getting over that hump now from seeing it on paper to putting it in action."