The Colorado River: Worth A TRILLION Dollars!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Welcome to our first post of 2015! There’s lots of new information and action coming forward — it should be an exciting year around the management of the Colorado River. ptf-studyFirst, just last week an economic study out of the Dept of Economics at Arizona State University indicated that water in the Colorado River brings in over $1 TRILLION of economic activity to the seven states in the Southwest U.S. including Southern California. That’s REAL money, an eye-popper that ought to get the attention of decision-makers across the region.

The study, funded by business/environment organization Protect The Flows, hopes to raise awareness about the impacts of drought and climate change. The study said that if the flow in the river drops just 10%, it would cost the region $143 billion and 1.6 million jobs. Check out the story in the Wall Street Journal here.

It’s great to have a business voice out there advocating to keep the river flowing. In addition, it brings into sharp focus the second big issue the Colorado River is facing in 2015 — proposals for EVEN MORE dams that would further deplete flows. Check out this column I wrote in EcoWatch last week, “Stop The War Against The Colorado Screenshot (209)River.” At the same time that the health of the river and business success is dependent on keeping the river flowing, the upstream states — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico — are proposing tens-of-billions of dollars in new dam projects that would further drain the river.

These proposed projects would dramatically deplete the river, further endanger protected species, and negatively impact the recreational economy as well as the mainstream economy of the downstream states. At Save The Colorado, we advocate for NO MORE DAMS, and in 2015 and beyond we will be doing whatever we can to stop this war against the Colorado River that threatens so many of the amenities we all value.

Third, an interesting update on one of the issues we advocated for last year. Recall that the most endangered porpoise in the world, the vaquita, is struggling to survive in Screenshot (210)the Gulf of California where the Colorado River used to meet the sea? I wrote a blog post about the vaquita here back in 2014.

Just last week, the Mexican government announced that they would start using DRONES to keep an eye on fisherman in the Gulf so as to make sure the fisherman are not catching and killing the endangered vaquita. Check out the article in the New York Times here. Mexican officials call the eco-drones “permanent aerial patrols” to help ensure the protection of the vaquita. What do you think of this idea? We like it — it’s a good use of technology that may help save this imperiled species.

Finally, we encourage you to support our efforts to protect and restore the Colorado River by donating to Save the Colorado! Our online donation link is here. We will keep the news and action items flowing and try to do everything we can to keep the river flowing too.

Thank you for your support!!

Colorado River Update! 2015, Here We Come!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Save The Colorado is the only organization on the planet whose mission is to protect and restore the Colorado River and its tributaries from the source to the sea. We are delighted to provide you with updates, action items, and greatly appreciate your support! Please consider donating to Save The Colorado in your year-end giving plans — you can donate online by clicking here.

As the year winds down, several very lake-meadimportant issues are moving that will impact the future of the Colorado River — some are good news, others are bad.

First, on the good news front, water districts in the three states in the lower basin — Arizona, California, and Nevada — have reached a significant agreement to conserve and share a large amount of water which will better protect water supplies in the lower basin. The New York Times covers the story here. The deal will help stave off the ever-falling water levels in Lake Mead and is the biggest agreement, so far, to indicate that lower basin states are able to find a collaborative solution to how they manage the lower Colorado River.

Second, on the good news front, scientists who studied the “pulse flow” that occurred in the Colorado River Delta at the beginning of 2014 have determined that the test case provided an enormous benefit to the ecology of the region. Not only did the area “re-green” itself as cottonwoods and willows blossomed and dropped their seeds, but beavers, coyotes, and birds also returned to the area. A good National Geographic report and video here depicts the changes. What’s needed next in the Delta is an ongoing “base flow” of water to keep the river bed alive, and then another agreement with Mexico for the next five years of river management.

On the bad news front, a series of problems are moving forward in the upper basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico that may doom the future of the Colorado River. Each state is going through a water planning process, the end result being that they are planning many more dams and diversions to get more water out of the Colorado River and its tributaries. As we’ve noted in past blogs, New Mexico is sor-capitol-small1moving forward with the Gila River Diversion, and Utah is proposing up to $15 billion in new dam projects. Further, the State of Wyoming is proposing “10 dams in 10 years,” and Colorado just unveiled its first water plan which calls for up to $20 billion in new water projects. I wrote an opinion piece in the High Country News laying out this potential river devastation — take a read here.

Of course Save The Colorado is fighting hard to address these threats. We’ve fought the Gila River Diversion and will continue to do so, we’ve provided financial support to the groups in Utah that are fighting dams, and we’ve taken to the streets to protest in Colorado when their water plan was unveiled. We showed up at the Colorado State Capitol with the “Save Our Rivers” banner and we got lots of news coverage including this TV report on Denver’s Channel 9 — take a look here.

Thank you again for all of the support in 2014! In 2015 we will continue this work — from Los Angeles to Mexicali to Las Vegas to Denver and beyond! — and we greatly appreciate your support to do that.  Please include Save The Colorado in your year-end giving plans by clicking here.

Stay tuned for more updates and action in 2015!

Gary Wockner
Executive Director, Save The Colorado

PRESS RELEASE: Did Colorado Launch A $20 BILLION Water War Against State’s Rivers?

For Immediate release
March 11, 2014
Save The Poudre and Save The Colorado
Contact: Gary Wockner

Did Colorado Launch A $20 Billion Water War Against State’s Rivers?

“The Colorado Water Plan is looking like a 20 billion dollar boondoggle to drain and destroy every river in the state,” said Gary Wockner, director of the river protection groups Save The Poudre and Save The Colorado.


Denver, CO: Yesterday, the State of Colorado unveiled its first ever Draft “Colorado Water Plan” which was immediately controversial due to the proposed massive number of water projects and price tag. The Draft Plan calls for “hundreds of projects” costing “20 billion dollars.”


During the Governor’s press conference announcing the Plan, Channel 9 News reporter sor-capitol-smallMaya Rodriguez asked how much the Plan would cost to implement, and James Eklund who is Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the lead author of the report replied, “20 Billion Dollars.”

Further, in order to pay for it, Eklund said the state taxpayers would have to foot the bill, just like taxpayers did in California and Texas, “We need to do the same thing in Colorado and this plan is a platform to have that discussion,” Eklund said.

The controversial Draft Plan follows a day after Eklund made even more controversial comments about Colorado’s role in the Southwest U.S. water wars.  As reported by the Associated Press, Eklund said, “If anybody thought we were going to roll over and say, ‘OK, California, you’re in a really bad drought, you get to use the water that we were going to use,’ they’re mistaken.”

The Draft Plan is extremely controversial because it proposes to put dams and diversions across many of the rivers in the state of Colorado. The proposals on the Colorado River could costs billions and would likely ignite a water war throughout the Southwest U.S.

“The Colorado Water Plan is looking like a 20 billion dollar boondoggle to drain and destroy every river in the state,” said Gary Wockner who is director of the river protection groups Save The Poudre and Save The Colorado.

The Plan now enters another whole year of public review and edits. In December of 2015, Governor Hickenlooper is expected to formally sign the Plan. Eklund said that the 2016 State Legislature would then be expected to pass legislation to “streamline permitting” processes and the State government could then embark on promoting and funding a “State Water Project.”

Save The Poudre and Save The Colorado held a banner at the press conference.


PRESS RELEASE: Will Colorado’s Water Plan Destroy Our Rivers?

For Immediate Release
December 9, 2014
Save The Colorado and Save The Poudre
Gary Wockner, Executive Director

Will Colorado’s Water Plan Destroy Our Rivers?
Governor Hickenlooper needs to change course and focus on collaboration

Fort Collins, CO: After nearly two years of deliberations, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and its affiliates are delivering a “draft” of the Colorado Water Plan to Governor Hickenlooper on Wednesday, Dec. 10 at a ceremony at the Colorado State john-hickenlooperCapitol (1:30pm, West Foyer). Although the Draft Plan throws everything and the kitchen sink into the mix of options to address Colorado’s future water challenges, the Draft Plan unfortunately lays the groundwork for more river destruction across the state. Severe problems with the Draft Plan include:


  1. The Draft Plan failed to include and accept input from grassroots advocacy organizations. A long-standing river protection group, Save The Poudre, was not allowed to sit on the South Platte Roundtable, and the input from 18 conservation organizations was almost completely ignored. 
  2. The Draft Plan discusses and supports the idea of a lot more river destruction schemes such as dams, reservoirs, diversions, and pipelines. The Draft Plan also points to the South Platte Basin Implementation Plan which specifically endorses every proposed river destruction scheme on the table including the extremely controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project, Windy Gap Firming Project, and Moffat Project, and a “conceptual review” for another major trans-mountain diversion from the Colorado River system such as the Flaming Gorge Pipeline. 
  3. The Draft Plan proposes to enact sweeping new power and authority for the State of Colorado (through the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Interbasin Compact Committee, and Legislature) to “streamline” and potentially gut regulations, and to lobby for and fund new dam and river destruction projects. 
  4. The Draft Plan gives lip service to “healthy rivers” for wildlife and recreation, but fails to lay out goals or specific strategies to achieve it.

“We have serious concerns about the process and product of this Draft Colorado Water Plan,” said Gary Wockner, director of the river protection groups Save The Poudre and Save The Colorado. “Colorado’s rivers are already severely depleted and oversubscribed, and this Draft Plan would make them all worse. Governor Hickenlooper needs to change course and focus on collaborative solutions that do not pit stakeholders against each other and would not launch multi-decade court battles and water wars over dam and river destruction projects.”

Those collaborative solutions include significantly larger investments in water conservation and efficiency, water reuse and recycling, better growth management, and water-sharing agreements with farmers.

Gary Wockner will attend the press conference representing Save The Poudre and Save The Colorado.


Colorado River Update: Take action in Utah and New Mexico!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

We have two action items this week for you to jump on!  First, recall two weeks ago when we discussed all of the dam threats in Utah?  You can review that blog post here. herbertUtah is proposing to spend up to $32 billion on new water projects, including a billion dollar boondoggle called the Lake Powell Pipeline. This proposal would pump water out of Lake Powell for Washington County in Southwest Utah. At the same time, the residents in the town of St. George and in Washington County already have one of the highest water uses in the state! They want even more water to drench lawns and support mega-sprawl in the desert. Our friends at Waterkeeper Alliance and Colorado River Connected have put together this online action for you to sign that sends an email to Utah Governor Gary Herbert telling him to stop this bad pipeline and focus on water conservation and efficiency instead. The Colorado River is already overtaxed — we can’t take anymore water out of it for suburban yards and sprawl. Please click through here to send an email to Governor Herbert!

Second, the situation around the Gila River in New Mexico has gotten worse. Two weeks ago the Governor’s Interstate Stream Commission APPROVED the Gila River martinezDiversion, which is a large boondoggle to further drain the Gila and pipe out the water for wasteful projects in New Mexico. Now, this decision is in the hands of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. We need to directly reach out to the Governor and ask her to stop this wasteful boondoggle. The Gila River Diversion could cost a billion dollars and impact the last wild river in New Mexico. At the same time, alternatives to the project that focus on water conservation and efficiency have been put forward that are faster and cheaper to implement.  You can learn more about the dreaded Gila River Diversion by visiting the Gila Conservation Coalition’s website here. Please call Governor Martinez’s office at: 505-476-2200 and ask her to stop this Diversion in its tracks. The Gila flows into the Colorado River — we need to Save The Gila!

And now for some GOOD news — it rained in California! Amid the worst drought in 1,200 years, California got a little relief this week as a major storm dropped water california-rainacross the state. Unfortunately it’s not enough rain to make a dent in the long-term drought, but it brought out umbrellas along the coast.

Thank you for taking action to protect the Colorado River and its tributaries!

Stay  tuned for more information and action opportunities!

Colorado River Update! Take Two Action Items to Protect The River!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

We have two action items today — one in New Mexico and one in Southern California!

First in New Mexico, there’s a proposal on the table to build a massive new diversion of water out of the Gila River, which is one of the last wild rivers in the Southwest U.S. and gila-protest2the Colorado River basin. The proposal would use federal money to divert the Gila and take the water over to cities and farms in Southwest New Mexico.  But, there’s counter proposals to use the money instead to promote water conservation and efficiency projects in the same cities and farms.  We are on the side of water conservation and efficiency!  Further, by Dec. 31st, New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez’s “Interstate Stream Commission” will make their decision about whether to support the diversion or not.  We’ve launched a petition on to Governor Martinez encouraging her to protect the Gila River, not gila-billboard1divert it.  Please click through here to sign our petition to tell Governor Martinez to stop the diversion and protect the Gila River!

As you may know, the Gila River is a “tributary” to the Colorado River — the Gila flows through New Mexico and Arizona, and then flows into the Colorado River.  Save The Colorado’s mission is to protect and restore the Colorado River and its tributaries from the source to the sea.  We are keeping track of dam and diversion projects throughout the Colorado River basin, and this Gila diversion is a bad idea!  Again, please click through and join thousands of New Mexicans to protect the Gila!  Governor Martinez needs to hear from us as soon as possible, and before the Dec. 31st deadline.

Second, some good news — and therefore a THANK YOU — in Southern California! The Mayors of San Diego and Los Angeles have recently taken stronger steps to address the drought and water supply challenges in Southern California.  Both cities get up to 1/2 of their water from the Colorado River, and both cities are moving forward with alternative water supply opportunities that could better protect the Colorado River.  Further, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer recently took a strong stance to help lead his City Council to support a big new water recycling facility in the City.  So, we created this Facebook “THANK YOU” for Mayor Faulconer of San Diego and Mayor Garcetti of Los Angeles. (Their fine photos are below). Please click through here to “like” and thank

We will keep working across the Colorado River basin to support good projects and stop bad ones.  Stay tuned for more action, and thank you for your support!


Press Release: New Mexico Gov. Martinez Should Stop The Gila River Diversion

For Immediate Release
November 17, 2014
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado

New Mexico Gov Martinez Should Stop The Gila River Diversion
Diversion would continue river-destruction legacy across Colorado River Basin

Fort Collins, CO:  Last week, Save The Colorado launched a petition to tell New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez to protect the Gila River by stopping the proposed Gila River Diversion. The Diversion proposes to take more water out of the gila-protest2Gila River – at a cost of nearly a billion dollars – and pipe it to cities and farms in Southwest New Mexico. A board appointed by Governor Martinez, the Interstate Stream Commission, has the final say in whether the State asks the U.S. Department of Interior for part of the money for the diversion, or alternatively for money for conservation and efficiency measures. Ultimately it is her appointed commission and she is responsible for the decisions they make.

“The Gila River in New Mexico is one of the more beautiful rivers in the Colorado River basin and flows into the Colorado River downstream,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado.  “The proposed diversion would continue the legacy of river destruction across the Southwest U.S. at a time when we need a common-sense shift to more sustainable water management policies focusing on conservation and efficiency.”

On Friday, November 14th, the staff of the Interstate Stream Commission recommended the Diversion (see this article in the Albuquerque Journal).  A few days before, a large gila-billboardrally of environmentalists, taxpayers, and river protectors urged the appointed Commission to oppose the Diversion (see this article in the Albuquerque Journal).  The Governor’s appointed Commission members must make a final decision by Dec. 31st.

“If Governor Martinez supports a recommendation for the Diversion, it will launch a multi-decade water war and permitting battle in New Mexico and the Southwest U.S.,” said Wockner.  “Alternatively, conservation and efficiency programs are welcomed by the environmental community and are the fastest, easiest, cheapest method for cities and farms to maximize water supplies. Governor Martinez has an opportunity to show that New Mexico can be an innovator in the West.”

“We need to protect and restore the rivers across the Colorado River basin, not further deplete them,” continued Wockner. “From Denver to Casper to San Diego to Albuquerque, we are keeping track of these proposed water projects, and we are strongly encouraging decision-makers to find a new and more sustainable path forward.”


Colorado River Update: Utah — VERY BAD Actor of the Week!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

When you think of Utah, do you think Moab? Arches National Park? Skiing? Well add this to your list: Utah probably has the worst water management policies of any state in the U.S.  Worse yet, Utah is proposing to double-down and “put dams on every river in utah-frankelthe state” and spend $32 Billion (that’s right, BILLION) on new water projects.

First, just last week, the U.S. Geological Survey put out a scientific study proclaiming that Utah uses more water per person than any state in the U.S.  Zach Frankel from Utah Rivers Council jumped on this and called Utah “The biggest water waster in America.” Check out the TV news video discussing this issue and featuring Zach here. While the U.S. as a whole is decreasing water use, Utah is increasing its water use.  Frankel blames much of the waste on the fact that Utah also has the cheapest water in the U.S., in that cities fail to charge the true cost of water to its citizens. What’s the result? More dried up streams like in the TV news video above. Boo hiss, Utah!

What’s even WORSE in Utah?  Get this: The State of Utah government wants to build more and more dams across Utah’s rivers. In fact, in a recent newspaper article, a state water official said: “‘It’s necessary to put dams on all rivers in Utah,’ said Todd East_Canyon_Dam_Morgan_County_UtahAdams, deputy director for the Utah Division of Water Resources.” Seriously, he said that! And once again, Zach Frankel from the Utah Rivers Council counters this nonsense in this newspaper article here, by calling it a “fear tactic” to scare the public into supporting higher taxes for more and more unnecessary dam projects.

Further yet, the State of Utah has outlined $32 Billion worth of water projects that includes nearly $15 Billion for new dam and reservoir projects. And, they’ve hired a slick public relations firm to try and jam it down Utah taxpayers’ throats. Check out this story in the Deseret News discussing the massive proposed expenditures. And, once again, Utah River Council’s Zach Frankel snaps back by saying, “It is an insult to try and dupe Utahns into ($32 billion) in debt with some flashy marketing. These water districts have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on propaganda Screenshot (143)for boondoggles like the Lake Powell Pipeline, but they have no way of showing they can repay this debt without draconian increases in water rates, impact fees and property taxes.”

And if that’s not enough, as we’ve outlined in the past year, Utah is leading the United States in proposals for dirty energy projects including tar sands, oil shale, and fracking for oil and gas. The new film, Last Rush for the Wild West, which we’ve discussed in the blog, highlights many of these threats.  You can watch the trailer here.

Of course it’s bad news that Utah is in the back seat (or the trunk of the car?) in water policy in the Colorado River basin, but the good news is that Utah environmental groups are working hard to change the status quo.  A big THANK YOU and shout out to Utah Rivers Council, Living Rivers, Glen Canyon Institute, and Citizens for Dixie’s Future, all groups that Save The Colorado has supported.

Keep fighting, Team!  Thank you for your support!



Save The Colorado Squares Off Against Windy Gap Firming Project

For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, E.D., Save The Colorado

Save The Colorado Squares Off Against The Windy Gap Firming Project
Large new dam and diversion would further drain the Colorado River and violate federal law
“If the patient is bleeding out, you don’t cut open a new artery to heal it — that’s what the Windy Gap Firming Project would do.” — Gary Wockner

Fort Collins, CO:
  Save The Colorado has sent the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation a 21-point letter highlighting how the Windy Gap Firming Project would further drain and destroy the Colorado River and violate federal law. The Bureau had opened an official public comment period (which closed on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014) in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process that gave the public the opportunity to once again upper-coloradoreview and comment on the proposed project.  Save The Colorado’s letter (posted here) summarizes over a hundred pages of negative comments the project had received during the EIS process from environmental groups, homeowners groups, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The Windy Gap Firming Project would further drain and destroy the Colorado River and violate federal law,” said Gary Wockner, Executive Director of Save The Colorado. “The Colorado River is already on the brink of destruction, from the top to the bottom — it needs to be protected and restored, not further drained.”

The Windy Gap Firming Project proposes to drain at least 33,000 acre feet of new water out of the Upper Colorado River, pipe it under the continental divide, into a large new dam and reservoir complex west of Loveland, and down into the sprawling suburban megalopolis of northern Colorado. About 60% of the Upper Colorado River has already been drained out and piped to Front Range.

Ironically, the Windy Gap Firming Project decision point also comes along at the exact same time that federal officials and water agencies throughout the Southwest U.S. have sounded alarm bells and launched a new program to get more water back in the Colorado River.  A few weeks ago, the very same U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sent out a press release discussing the “gripping drought” that had “reduced water levels to critically low levels” and their program to “protect the Colorado River.”  The two main reservoirs in the Colorado River system, Powell and Mead, are at their lowest point in history, and just last week the Central Arizona Project posted a story saying they were planning for the state’s first Colorado River water shortage in history in 2017.

“If the patient is bleeding out, you don’t cut open a new artery to heal it — that’s what the Windy Gap Firming Project would do,” said Wockner. “The Bureau of Reclamation needs to stop this project in its tracks and change course towards river protection and restoration that also protects water supplies for the entire Southwest U.S.”

Save The Colorado is promoting alternatives to the $300 million project that would better protect the river and find a more sustainable water path forward. “Cities should focus on conservation, efficiency, growth management, water recycling, and water-sharing agreements with farmers, not new river-destroying schemes,” said Wockner.

The Bureay of Reclamation has not indicated when they will issue a “Record of Decision,” after which many more permits and decisions are required including a decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, before the project could move forward.


It’s Colorado River movie night — grab your popcorn and a hot date!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Grab your popcorn and a hot date — it’s movie night! While we’ve all been busy advocating for the protection and restoration of the Colorado River, documentary Screenshot (149)filmmakers across the Southwest U.S. have been busy making films.  Here’s the four latest films you’ll need to put on your “much watch” list for the Colorado River.

First is “Last Rush For The Wild West” which highlights the Tar Sands threat and other dirty energy projects in Utah and Colorado. Made by Jennifer Eckstrom, the film interviews activists and digs in deep about the likely impacts of tar sands and oil shale on the landscapes and waterways of the West.

You can watch the trailer by clicking here.

The film debuted in September at the Moab International Film Festival. To get a screening of the film in your community, contact Jennifer Ekstrom through the film’s facebook page here.

Screenshot (150)Second is “Warm Springs” which tells the harrowing tale of one of the last wild rapids on the last wild river in the Southwest U.S., the Warm Springs Rapid on the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Park.  Directed by Cody Perry and Ben Saheb, the film has some organization heft behind it with support from O.A.R.S. rafting company, Friends of the Yampa, Rig To Flip, American Whitewater, and American Rivers. As such, Warm Springs is a high-quality production.

You can watch the trailer by clicking here.  You can watch the full fiim by clicking here.

For screening details, go to Rig To Flip’s website here.

Screenshot (151)Third is “Wrenched,” a brand new film by M.L. Lincoln which chronicles the history and era of “monkey wrenching” environmental activism and the exploits of legendary writer/activist Edward Abbey.  This film has many long minutes of previously unseen footage and speeches of Edward Abbey — if you’re an Abbey aficionado, this is a must see.  The “cracking” of Glen Canyon Dam also plays prominently in this film as does Abbey’s work of fiction, The Monkey Wrench Gang.

You can watch the trailer of Wrenched by clicking here.

To get screening details visit the film’s website here.

Screenshot (152)Finally, Pete McBride has been at it again! Pete and his merry band of river-exploring friends were the first in history to paddle the pulse flow of the Colorado River Delta earlier this year after the U.S. and Mexico released water back in the river. Pete’s new film, “Delta Dawn,” which chronicles that trip, will premier at the Banff International Film Festival in November. Pete’s last production, “Chasing Water,” received international awards and acclaim. We are really looking forward to Pete’s new film, Delta Dawn. You can see the trailer for Delta Dawn here.  To contact Pete about screening details for the full film, visit Pete’s website here.

Have a GREAT time watching these movies. Thank you for your support and stay tuned for more adventures!