Celebrating World Water Day in the Mountain West
World Water Day was celebrated on Wednesday(March 22, 2023) as part of the United Nations’ ongoing attempt to draw attention to the world’s growing water issue. Western U.S. leaders have made progress, but there are still a lot of water problems.
Kevin Moran said, associate vice president for regional affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund-
“In much of the West, we face a situation where we have to figure out how to reduce consumptive water use and do that in a way that doesn’t devastate local economies and the environment.“That’s the fundamental challenge we face.”
Due to the ongoing drought, the Colorado River, which flows for more than 1,400 miles through seven states and is vital to the lives of 40 million people, is at record low levels. The river’s reservoir in Arizona, Lake Powell, is at its lowest level at 22% of its capacity. The capacity of Lake Mead, another significant reservoir, is just 28%.
“The Colorado River Basin is ground zero for the impact of acidification on water supplies and increasing water insecurity for communities and the environment,” he said.
It’s not just the Colorado River that’s low and drying up. Others are too. Several parts of the Rio Grande dried up for the first time in 40 years last summer. This issue can affect the river’s endangered species, farmers, and water users.
“I think it’s been a real wake up call for many of us in the West and certainly New Mexicans who cherish and rely on that river.”
While this season has had above-average snowfall, soil moisture, and rising temperatures might still affect the amount that makes it to the rivers.
“It’s really easy to want to believe that one good rainy spring or a couple of big storms are going to change the story, are going to change the work we have to do,” Moran said. “We think that’s absolutely not the case.”
Moran brought attention to the state of Nevada’s attempts to conserve water. Recently, there has been talked about forcing those using septic systems to hook up to municipal wastewater treatment plants so that the treated water can be recycled and sent downstream to Lake Mead.
Some other states have fallen behind. The Arizona resident Moran stated that 80% of the state’s property had no groundwater laws. Users can extract as much water as they choose, regardless of the impact on nearby water supplies.
Moran argued that now more than ever, states should take the initiative to develop water conservation policies. One year from now, he thinks, the seven states’ leaders will be negotiating the specifics of a deal to cut water use from the Colorado River.
“That’s a tall order, I sound a little Pollyannaish, perhaps by saying that, but I believe that ought to be the goal,” he said. “If we make the environment and the health of the river itself an afterthought, we risk making the entire situation even worse.”
He suggests water timing devices and low-water-use appliances for westerners and voting for conservation-minded lawmakers in Washington to preserve water. He said-
“Climate change is water change — in many parts of the world, the first time we experience the realities of aridification and the ravages of climate change is through water.”
“I think as citizens, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Okay, we’re going to do these things to conserve water. I’m going to be a responsible resident. And I want to contribute to solving the underlying problem.’”
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