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🔬 "Most Endangered River 2022 - The Colorado"


Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Travis Loop
Guest: Matt Rice | Director of the Southwest Region | American Rivers
Category: 🔬 Research | Colorado River

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:41] “We are listing the Colorado River as the number one most endangered river in the country because of the effects of climate change, demand for the river’s water and outdated river management.”

[2:10] “We're in a crisis. […] Over the last 20 years, the river has lost about 20% of its flow […] and I think a lot of climate projections are suggesting that we could lose an additional 10 to 20% more of the water available in the river. And we're at this key point right now, reservoir levels are dropping precipitously both in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, runoff is not what […] historically has been. Just very simply, we don't have the river that we used to have.”

[4:17] “The climate crisis […] from our perspective is a water crisis. And ground zero for that crisis is the Colorado River Basin. This region is heating at a faster rate than most other regions in the world, because it's a hotter, drier climate throughout the entire year that sucks water and moisture out of the soil, out of the rivers, out of the reservoirs. […] The Colorado is not able to deliver as much to downstream states and water users as in the past and that creates legal issues and complexities to say the least.”

[6:24] “We have to take advantage of this new federal funding to invest in climate resilience, not only in Colorado, but throughout the western United States. There's $8.3 billion directed towards Western water. […] A lot of the infrastructure that delivers water in the Colorado River Basin is very old and it's not efficient, it leaks. And it's also very expensive to fix and we have an opportunity to do that now. Investing in recycling and reuse in our urban areas. […] Investing in watershed health and forest health has water benefits and also builds resilience against catastrophic wildfire that's more and more common in this world of climate change that we live in.”

[9:50] “We historically made decisions based on a 15 to 17 million acre foot River. Now we need to start making decisions based on a river that's maybe 9 to 11 million acre feet. […] We need to face the truth here and accept that. And in order to do that on the management side, we need to think creatively about how we manage the river in more flexible ways, considering that because of climate change the hydrology is going to be increasingly uncertain from year to year. So we need the tools to be able to manage the river in a more flexible way.”

[13:18] “There are more than 30 Native American tribes that depend on the Colorado River. These tribes hold the right to very significant, very senior water rights, many of which have not been fully developed. Yet, historically, the tribes have not had any equal or an equitable or meaningful kind of voice at the policy decision making table. And if we're going to have a sustainable Colorado River, we need critically important stakeholders, like the tribes to be part of those discussions in a more meaningful way than they have been in the past.”

[19:08] “The stakes are massively high. This river provides water to approximately 40 million people. It drives a $1.4 trillion economy, probably much larger than that, because that number is from 2014. […] If we're unable to meet this challenge and the river crashes, it's going to have implications far, far beyond the southwest.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify | Google
🕰️ 21 min | 🗓️ 04/19/2022
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