At shrinking Lake Mead, a new coalition says status quo on Colorado River is failing

Group says the Colorado River needs to be managed differently as climate change and drought take a worsening toll on the watershed./Credit: Grand Canyon Destinations

By Anton L. Delgado, Ian James | Arizona Republic

HOOVER DAM — With the concrete towers of Hoover Dam in the background and the depleted waters of the nation’s largest reservoir below, an unlikely group of allies — conservation activists, businesspeople and officials representing cities and farming communities — on Thursday called for halting all plans that would take more water from the shrinking Colorado River.

The 10 people who spoke at the news conference said they’re part of a new coalition demanding a moratorium on new dams and proposed pipelines, including a proposal to transport Colorado River water to sustain urban growth in Utah.

They said they aren’t opposed to new development but that water supplies need to be identified first, especially as the reservoirs on the river have declined to new lows. The coalition also declared that the shortage-sharing efforts Western water officials have undertaken to date have been a failure. They said the status quo is no longer viable and the Colorado River needs to be managed differently as climate change and drought take a worsening toll on the watershed.

The speakers condemned plans for Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline, saying it makes no sense to draw more water from a river that’s already overused far beyond what it can support.

“While the Lower Basin is going on a diet of cutting its water use, we should not let the Upper Basin go on an all-you-can-eat buffet,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, which has been fighting plans for the pipeline. “It’s akin to someone losing their job and going on a spending spree to buy a Rolls Royce. This madness must stop. It is irresponsible.”

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