Colorado River Basin Water Problems:

How To Reduce Their Impact

CED-79-11: Published: May 4, 1979. Publicly Released: May 4, 1979.

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Unless federal, state, and local governments begin to work together, the Colorado River Basin, an area embracing parts of seven southwestern states, will not be able to cope with a probable water shortage soon after the year 2000.

Considerable disagreement exists among concerned officials, engineers, and researchers about future annual river flows, while questions on the severity and timing of the water shortage remain unanswered. Most plans and programs of the Bureau of Reclamation appear to be based on optimistic estimates of the annual water supply. Programs for water salvage and augmentation have been canceled or have had limited success due to environmental consideration, while many conservation programs are failing because of legal and economic constraints. Indian and federal reserved water rights have not been quantified or settled satisfactorily. Procedures for operating basin reservoirs during a shortage are incomplete because the basin states cannot agree on the approach to be taken or the necessity for agreement at this time. Long-term solutions that consider all alternatives will be impossible if the basin water managers wait until a shortage occurs. Much uncertainty exists about the effectiveness and efficiency of the basin's salinity control program. Due to a lack of pre-evaluation, the current project-by-project approach has led to water development which has greatly increased salinity.

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