Uniting the West to Save the Colorado River: A Bottom-Up Approach to the Water Crisis
As the Western United States grapple with increasingly frequent and severe droughts, the Colorado River is facing a rapidly dwindling water supply. This is threatening the water access of 40 million Americans across seven states plus two states in Mexico. In an effort to protect this vital resource, the other six states in the basin have proposed a plan to share the burden and bring the river’s supply and demand into balance, but California is refusing to play fair.
California, the region’s largest water user, has argued that Arizona should take the biggest cuts if the water in Lake Mead dips below 1,025 feet above sea level, even though California’s share of the river’s water is already larger. This means Arizona’s cities, farms, and Native American communities would suffer, while California’s Imperial Valley agricultural empire would receive more water from Lake Mead than the entire state of Arizona.
In order for the region to protect its water resources, it is essential that all seven states come together and work on a plan that everyone can agree on. Fortunately, California already has the blueprint for this. Twenty years ago, the state’s agricultural and urban communities negotiated agreements that facilitated the transfer of agricultural water to its cities. This made California the first state to permanently reduce its Colorado River water use and meet its legal and moral obligations.
In order to secure the long-term future of the Colorado River, local leaders must take the lead in developing and implementing equitable solutions to the water crisis. This bottom-up strategy is essential, as national and state leaders are increasingly distrusted by the public. By uniting the seven states and striving for fairness and shared sacrifice, it will be possible to save the West that we know and love.
0. “The water wars of the future are here today — USC News” USC News, 28 Feb. 2023, https://news.usc.edu/205732/the-water-wars-of-the-future-are-here-today/
1. “The Root of the Colorado River Crisis: Corporate Water Abuse” Food and Water Watch, 28 Feb. 2023, https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/2023/02/28/colorado-river/
2. “Solving the worsening drought in the western states will require all of us working together – San Diego Union-Tribune” Senator Dianne Feinstein, 25 Feb. 2023, https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/op-eds?id=84F0CB6E-0B40-47B9-A59A-8389EC977D0F
3. “#California Wants to Keep (Most of) the #ColoradoRiver for Itself — John Fleck via The New York Times #COriver …” Coyote Gulch Blog, 28 Feb. 2023, https://coyotegulch.blog/2023/02/28/california-wants-to-keep-most-of-the-coloradoriver-for-itself-john-fleck-via-the-new-york-times-coriver-aridification/
4. “Education on water solutions vital for California Latinos” CalMatters, 28 Feb. 2023, https://calmatters.org/commentary/2023/02/latino-leaders-water-crisis-solution