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Audubon is deeply involved about present Colorado River situations, a disaster within the making for birds and other people. Present authorities modeling reveals 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 determine new guidelines for Colorado River administration (“pre-scoping for post-2026 Colorado River Reservoir Operational Methods for Lake Powell and Lake Mead Below 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 folks and nature.
The Colorado River is known for supporting the expansion of the American West, to the purpose the place right now it provides 40 million folks and underpins an economic system exceeding $1 trillion. Nevertheless, thirty sovereign Tribes which were within the basin since time immemorial haven’t been included in administration discussions, and in lots of instances do not need 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 % of all wildlife. The riparian forest that traces the waterways of the Colorado River Basin offers vital 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 accessible, no less than six breeding fowl 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.
Speedy 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 a complete and work collaboratively to outline options. Right here’s what Audubon desires 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 complete vary of stakeholders, not simply water rights holders
- Sound science
- Sincere analysis and communication about accessible 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