Colorado River Update: Can We Save California?

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Two updates this week:  First, can we save California? The devastating California drought has generated myriad responses, and into that ring Save The Colorado throws ca-drought1its recommendations. This week, we published a blog titled, “Four Ways To Beat The California Drought and Save The Colorado River.” Here are our four recommendations: 1) Jerry Brown’s drought restrictions should become permanent. 2) Southern California should become a worldwide leader in stormwater and wastewater management. 3) Enormous efficiencies can be made in Southern Calfornia’s agricultural sector. And 4), use some of Southern Calfornia’s water to restore the Colorado River Delta.

As you may know, all of Southern California — farms and cities — gets water from the Colorado River, and the drought that is impacting California is occurring across the Southwest U.S. The drought in California may feel like it’s causing extreme circumstance in the short term, but with innovative thinking and investments, the drought may become an opportunity for the state to lead the entire Southwest U.S. forward towards resilience. In a world with a changing climate, resiliency will be measured in efficiency and adaptability. Southern California may feel a bit of squeeze at the beginning, but it will blossom into a new and more efficient and thriving economy and culture more in tune with its surrounding environment. Take a read of our blog in EcoWatch here.

Second, take action to stop the proposed Tar Sands Mine near the Colorado River in Utah! With many eyes focused on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline controversy that would move tar sands mined in Canada to the gulf coast, there is a tar sands IMG_5111-771x575project gaining speed in eastern Utah that is being overlooked. A Canadian company with the name “U.S. Oil Sands” hopes to mine tar sands from tens of thousands of acres of land in Utah, which is estimated to have more than 50% of all tar sands in the United States. Tar sands is the dirtiest form of energy on the planet. Extracting, refining and burning tar sands produces three to five times as much CO2 as petroleum, which contributes dramatically to climate change. Tar sands mining could make our rivers and aquifers toxic, poisoning the drinking water for millions of people who depend on the Colorado River basin. The Colorado River system is already stressed from over-use, and polluting and using vast amounts of water to mine tar sands and oil shale is a dead-end for everyone.

Save The Colorado is working with a big coalition of groups from Denver to Los Angeles to address this threat to the Colorado River ecosystem. The State of Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining (DOGM) should not approve the Revised Notice of Intent for Large Scale Mining at PR Springs. DOGM is accepting public comments until May 18. You can click through here to send an email to the DOGM asking them to REJECT this terrible idea. Please speak up for the Colorado Basin and a future free of dirty fossil fuels by clicking through here

Thank you for your support! Please stay tuned for more updates!

Colorado River Update: Is the California drought the “new normal?”

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Over the last few weeks, all eyes have focused on California and the epic drought that is hammering the state. You may have seen the news that Governor Brown issued an brown-drought-abcexecutive order that all residential water agencies need to decrease their water use by  25%. This order falls in a long line of drought and water conservation measures that the state and cities have taken over the last 2 years. But will it be enough? And is it fair?

Recall, all of Southern California receives water from the Colorado River. In fact, Southern California and the farms in Imperial County east of San Diego, are the single biggest user of Colorado River water, consuming a quarter (1/4th) of the entire flow of the river!

As California struggles through this drought, a firestorm of controversy has erupted over how the Governor’s order impacts, or doesn’t impact, various water users. As three examples: 1) activist groups throughout the state are calling for an end to fracking — that high-water use technique to extract oil and gas. If people are forced to take shorter showers, should water be used for fracking? And 2) what about farming? Various groups and stakeholders are claiming that while the Governor cutback homeowners’ water use, high-water crops like almonds and pistachios continue to proliferate across the state. Sally-Jewell-010Further, parts of California are still growing rice (which is a crop made to grow in monsoon areas), and are still growing massive amounts of alfalfa hay that is shipped to China to feed dairy cows. Finally, 3) other groups have asked the Governor to clamp down on the bottled water industry. ABC News discusses some of these issues in this TV segment here which includes a lengthy interview with Governor Brown.

What is Save The Colorado’s response to all of this? First, we encourage everyone to not think of the California drought as a temporary phenomenon, but rather as the “new normal.” We are in an extended drought in the Southwest U.S., and NASA scientists tell us that this drought could evolve into a MEGADROUGHT due to the impacts of climate change. Over a year ago, Sally Jewell who is Secretary of Interior, referred to the Colorado River drought as the “new normal” and we agree with her.

Second, the ongoing drought in the Colorado River basin and the extreme drought in n-JOHN-HICKENLOOPER-large570California continues to highlight how insane it is to propose diverting even more water out of the already extremely depleted Colorado River. As we have noted to you several times, the biggest threat to the Colorado River has come from the upstream states—Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico – with their proposals and plans to take even more water out of the river. Specifically, in recent water planning processes, Colorado proposed $20 billion worth of dam and reservoir projects, Utah proposed at least $15 billion, Wyoming proposed “10 dams in 10 years” and New Mexico endorsed a billion-dollar water project. It’s like these states are engaging in Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), where every stakeholder is fighting to get the last river-destroying drops of water out of the system. Save The Colorado oppose all new projects that want to take more water out of the Colorado River.

What can you do to help? Two things:
1. May 1st is the deadline to send in comments opposing the State of Colorado’s Water Plan. This plan proposes a massive number of new dams and water projects across the state costing billions of dollars. Please click through here to send an email to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

2. Join Save The Colorado! By joining our organization, you help us get legal standing to fight these bad water projects all across the Colorado River basin. And when you join, we send you a t-shirt. Click here to join and get a t-shirt.

Thank you for your attention and support! Stay tuned for more action!

April 1st Press Release: Upper Colorado River Basin Governors Want NO More Dams

For Immediate Release
April 1, 2015
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Upper Colorado River Basin Governors Switch Positions,
Call For No New Dams or Diversions and For Healthy River Flows

Colorado River, USA: Today in a joint statement, the governors in the Upper Colorado River basin switched their long-held positions and plans and called for no new dams or diversions on the Colorado River and its tributaries in order to ensure healthy river flows. The statement comes on the heels of an extended 15-year drought in the Colorado River basin, including the worst drought in history in California, and also in response to NASA scientists whose recent report warned of a MEGADROUGHT due to climate change in the Southwest U.S.. Each governor issued a similar statement, “There will be NO new dams and diversions in my state. Our rivers should be healthy and run as freely as possible.”

“We’re excited to see these governors change their positions and face the reality of drought and climate change throughout the Southwest U.S.,” said Gary Wockner, Executive Director of the Save The Colorado River Campaign. “These Upper Basin states were on track to spend tens-of-billions of dollars or more of taxpayer dollars to build hundreds of new river-destroying projects. The new approach by these forward thinking Western leaders will protect the river and water supplies for future generations of people and hundreds of species of fish, birds and animals.”

The statement from the governors represents a dramatic change in their positions. Over the last 12 months, the biggest threat to the Colorado River has come from the upstream states—Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico – with their proposals and plans to take even more water out of the river. Specifically, in recent water planning processes, Colorado proposed $20 billion worth of dam and reservoir projects, Utah proposed at least $15 billion, Wyoming proposed “10 dams in 10 years” and New Mexico endorsed a billion-dollar water project. Most of these proposed projects would take additional water out of the Colorado River before it gets to Lakes Powell and Mead. Water levels in both lakes are at historic lows and dropping with no end in sight.

Previous statements made by water officials in these states made it seem like the basin was heading for a fight over water in the Colorado River. Colorado’s lead water official recently 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.” And the lead water official in Utah recently stated, “It’s necessary to put dams on all rivers in Utah.”

“April 1st, 2015 (APRIL FOOLS DAY!) will be seen as a historic turning point in water management across the Southwest U.S.,” said Gary Wockner. “The vision, leadership, and stewardship of these governors will be seen as a beacon of hope to establish a clear priority to ensure rivers are healthy and flowing for individuals and communities in the West for generations to come.”

The four governors issuing the statement are John Hickenlooper from Colorado, Matt Mead from Wyoming, Gary Herbert from Utah, and Susana Martinez from New Mexico.







The California Drought: Apocalypse Now?

Happy Monday Friends of the Colorado River!

About a year ago I was speaking on a panel of water professionals in Palm Springs, California, at an event put on by the Palm Springs newspaper, The Desert Sun. The keynote speaker for the event was U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and so there was a famiglietti-smallpretty big crowd with lots local VIPS in attendance. When I was interviewed by the local TV station, I said “If it becomes a 2 year or 3 year drought, and the supply of water coming from the Colorado River gets cut back, then it will become ‘gut time.‘”

Well now California has just entered into its 4th year of drought and it’s gut time. Last week, Governor Brown moved forward with his second billion-dollar “drought relief plan.” Southern California is calling for big cutbacks in water use and is buying water from farmers in northern California. And, many cities across the state are enacting stronger water conservation plans.

One of the people on the panel with me was Jay Famiglietti, a scientist at UC-Irvine who is also with NASA. Jay has made big news the last few years by using satellites to measure groundwater across California and the Southwest U.S. He’s also been one of leading voices in the media warning California about this drought. At the same time that Californian’s have sucked their reservoirs nearly dry, they’ve also pumped massive amounts of water out of the ground. Further, across the Colorado River basin over the past 15 years, the water in Lake’s Powell and Mead has dropped by 25 million acre feet, and the amount of water pumped out of the ground that has also not been replenished has been about 25 million acre feet. Last week, Jay had an op-ed in the LA Times titled, “California has about one year of water stored. Will you ration now?”

To state this pointedly: We’ve tapped the surface rivers and reservoirs and the groundwater across California and the Southwest U.S. to lower levels than at anytime in history. And, there’s likely no way this water can ever be replenished.

JamesEklundProfile-smallSo what can we do about it? The first thing we cannot do is drain and divert even more water out of the Colorado River which provides water to the entire Southwest U.S. and Southern California. That’s why our organization has taken a strong interest and stance in the “Colorado Water Plan” and the actions of the person who is writing the plan, James Eklund, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Unfortunately, Eklund’s plan is proposing to take a massive amount of new water out of the Colorado River — at the very top of the basin in the state of Colorado — thus ensuring even more dire circumstances for the river and folks downstream in Arizona, Nevada, and southern California. Further, Eklund has been saying “False Information” about the plan, which I pointed out in this rebuttal to one of his newspaper columns.

So what can we do right now help send a message:

1. Click through here on facebook and leave a little note to Jay Famiglietti letting him know we appreciate his work and his speaking out about this issue. He’s combining good science with sound ethics — studying a problem and speaking out about it. Jay needs to be supported in his work.

2. Click through here on facebook and leave a little note to James Eklund respectfully letting him know we are disappointed in his work so far. The Colorado Water Plan needs to focus on conservation, efficiency, recycling, and water-sharing agreements with farmers, not new diversions of water out of the Colorado River.

2015 is so far looking like a dry year in the Colorado River basin — stay tuned for more news and updates!  And thank you for your support!

James Eklund’s “False Information” about the Colorado Water Plan

James Eklund’s “False Information” about the Colorado Water Plan
by Gary  Wockner
March 12, 2015, reprinted from the Washington Park Profile

The Colorado Water Plan is an important process and document for all Coloradans to pay attention to. Unfortunately, James Eklund, in charge of the plan and director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (WCB) appointed by Governor Hickenlooper, has made several serious false statements about the process and the current draft of the plan in his column in the March 2015 Washington Park Profile.

First, Eklund states that the process that created the draft of the Colorado Water Plan was “grassroots,” when nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that the people who created the plan are self-appointed and purposely kept opposing anti-dam and anti-river-destruction voices from participating in the effort. A river conservation group I represent was purposely excluded from the South Platte Roundtable which wrote the plan for our basin, and a coalition that I formed – which included 18 national, regional, and local environmental groups which oppose new dams and diversions – had absolutely no (ZERO) representation on any of the state’s roundtables which wrote the plan.

Second, Eklund states that the draft of the plan represents “consensus” of everyone who wrote it, when again, nothing could be further from the truth. The plan is a “compilation,” not consensus. Eklund and the WCB combined all the regional/basin plans together and put them in the draft statewide plan – when not only is there no “consensus” about the final product, but those regional/basin plans are in dramatic disagreement.

Third, and following from above, Mr. Eklund says there was “agreement from water interests statewide.” So-Not-True. For example, the basin plan from the South Platte and Denver Metro areas calls for dramatic new, large dams and diversions from the state’s rivers, including the Colorado River, while the West Slope basin plan calls for no new or only very small diversions. Further yet, the 18 conservation groups noted above and representing over 100,000 members in Colorado, put public comments in a letter and a video calling for “no new diversions at all,” but our comments were completely ignored in the draft plan.

Fourth, Eklund insinuates the 13,000 public comments he received about the plan agree with what’s in the plan draft. Again, not true. About 12,500 of those comments came from members of the state’s many conservation groups who called for no new or only limited new dams and diversions on the state’s rivers and a much greater focus on higher levels of urban conservation, recycling water, and protecting our rivers. Mr. Eklund has been fond of saying the process has been the biggest public input effort in the state’s history, but he completely neglects to say that roughly 90 percent of that input came from conservation-minded citizens whose views are not represented by what’s in the draft plan.

Finally, Eklund says everyone has agreed to “accelerate” dam/diversion projects and “shorten the federal regulatory process.” Completely untrue. Thousands of public comments said nothing of or agreed to no such thing. Further, the federal regulatory process was enacted in the 1960s and ‘70s to ensure the public trust and the protection of America’s natural resources for past, present, and future generations. Nothing is more important than making sure America’s environmental laws – which are some of the best of any country on Earth, including the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act – are adhered to as a fundamental bedrock of our democracy and responsibility to all the human and non-human creatures we share this amazing state with now and in the future. This democratic and environmental-protection process should never be accelerated to fast-track river destruction in Colorado.

The thousands of members of organizations I represent appreciate Mr. Eklund’s service to our state on the Colorado Water Plan and we are happy to continue working with him as this plan develops throughout 2015. However, we would also appreciate – and will make sure – that Eklund is accurate in how he represents the process and the plan so that the public’s trust is ensured as this important effort moves forward.

Gary Wockner, PhD, Executive Director, Save The Poudre and Save The Colorado


Colorado River Update! Drought, Dams, Pipelines, Paddleboards, and Climate Action Plans!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Drought, dams, pipelines, paddleboard races, and climate action plans — Save The Colorado keeps track of it all! And, we’re right in the middle of the action! What are the Top Seven Stories this week, and what are we doing about it? Here’s a rundown: 

1. Can climate action plans stop megadrought and save the Colorado River? Climate change may be the #1 threat to the Colorado River — in fact, December through February was the warmest on record for the Southwest U.S. — but what are cities Screenshot (242)across the Southwest U.S. doing about it? Check out my recent post in Ecowatch here where I summarize the city climate action plans across the basin. Here’s the good news — San Diego and Fort Collins have both committed to 100% renewable energy and a few other cities have committed to 80% reductions in carbon emissions. Save The Colorado tracks and supports climate action plans as one of our programmatic activities.

2. California is in its 4th year of drought and water managers are starting to plan for worst case scenarios. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California just announced that they are starting a large-scale advertising campaign to boost water conservation across the region. This campaign is in addition to the $100 million the District has already committed for rebates for water-saving appliances. Read the story here. Save The Colorado tracks water conservation programs and works with local groups in Southern California who are pushing water agencies to conserve more water.

3. State legislatures are now in session across the basin and are making missouri-pipedecisions (most of them bad…) about dams and water management. The Utah legislature is considering a bill to support a statewide sales tax to help fund the multi-billion dollar boondoggle of the Lake Powell Pipeline (read about it here). The Colorado legislature is considering a bill to study a massive pipeline from the Missouri River to bring water across the great plains to Colorado (read about it here). And on the bright side, the New Mexico legislature is considering bills to clamp down on the Governor’s Commission that pushed through the Gila River Diversion (read about it here). Save The Colorado keeps track of these legislative bills and communicates with the public and the media about their impact on the Colorado River ecosystem.

4. Want to have some fun this spring — try a Stand Up Paddleboard race! Save The Colorado is supporting two paddleboard races that are coming up. The first is with IMG_269012the Los Angeles Waterkeeper, called Stand Up For Clean Water, on April 18th in Malibu (click through here to register). The second is on the Colorado River itself, called the Back of Beyond Stand Up Paddle Race, in Moab on May 9th. (click through here to register). The Back of Beyond race is generously donating some of their proceeds to Save The Colorado — go team!

5. Deadbeat Dams is published! Former Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, Dan Beard, has just published a book that will very likely have everyone in the Colorado deadbeat-dams-logo1River basin talking. Titled, Deadbeat Dams: Why we need to abolish the Bureau of Reclamation and tear down Glen Canyon Dam (click here to visit the book’s website), the book has gotten several rave reviews including from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who said, “Deadbeat Dams is a courageous book and much needed… Dams kill rivers – Deadbeat Dams restores rivers and our hope for a sustainable future.” Save The Colorado believes that Deadbeat Dams is a must-read and an important part of the conversation about the future management of the Colorado River basin.

6. What are we doing for the International Day of Action for Rivers? We’re having a party! Save The Colorado is once again joining The Environmental Group of Boulder County, Colorado, in the Rocky Mountain River Celebration. We are raising money to protect the river and will be joining friends and colleagues — including famous nature writer, Craig Childs — at Upslope Brewing in Boulder (click here to see the invitation). If you are in or around Boulder on Saturday, March 14th, join us! You can also listen to this short radio interview on KGNU about the Celebration (click here to listen).

7. What’s going on with the Colorado Water Plan? Save The Colorado is in the trenches, fighting against the powers that be to push this plan in a better direction so that it focuses on water conservation and river protection. I just wrote a stinging rebuttal to a column written by the Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, James Eklund. Published in Denver’s Washington Park Profile, my rebuttal points out the “false information” that Eklund is spewing to the public. Eklund’s column is here, and you can read my rebuttal here. We have to keep them honest and force them to protect our rivers!

Finally, what can you do to help Save The Colorado River? Join our organization by DSCF0268[1]buying a t-shirt! Then, please send us a photo of you wearing your t-shirt so we can post it on our facebook page. All the cool kids are doing it!

Click through here to buy a t-shirt.

Thank you for your support, and please stay tuned for all the weekly action!

Colorado River Update! L.A., Grand Canyon, Colorado, and New Mexico!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

There’s a lot going on right now and opportunities for you to take action! Here’s a swing around the Colorado River basin.


LOS ANGELES: If you’re in Los Angeles tonight, join our super friends at the Los Angeles Waterkeeper for their Dirty for the Drought Cocktail Party! Waterkeeper’s “Dirty Car Pledge” has been a huge success, raising awareness and getting national attention on NBC news while also conserving a lot of water in Los Angeles. Nearly 10,000 people have pledged to not wash their cars for 60 days in order to save water and help Southern California through this drought.The Cocktail Party tonight is a celebration of the Dirty for the Drought campaign — a big party and educational event about water conservation. L.A. gets nearly 1/2 of its water from the Colorado River, so conservation is river protection for L.A. and beyond.

GRAND CANYON, TAKE ACTION! Save The Colorado is proud to join the coalition in support of creating the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. Our friends at Sierra Club are leading this campaign — we are joining them shoulder-to-shoulder to encourage President Obama to create the monument. You can click through here to send an email to President Obama. The Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument would help protect the area around Grand Canyon National Park from logging and mining, especially from dangerous uranium mining that threatens to pollute the Park and the hick-troutColorado River. Please click through to take action, and stay tuned for more information on this issue in the coming months.

COLORADO, TAKE ACTION! The Colorado Water Plan is still moving forward, and still moving in the wrong direction. Governor John Hickenlooper has yet to say much about the plan but his staff member in charge of the plan, James Eklund, has been saying many of the wrong things — arguing for billions of dollars of new dam projects and a statewide tax to pay for it. The Colorado Water Plan process will continue to escalate throughout 2015 with a final plan being signed by the Governor in December. Because over half of all of the water in the Colorado River falls in Colorado in the form of snow and then melts to create the river, the Colorado Water Plan is very important for the entire Southwest U.S. This plan MUST NOT support new dams and diversions of water out of the Colorado River. Once again, you can click through here to send an email to Governor Hickenlooper. Yesterday, some young kids from Nuestro Rio visited with Governor Hickenlooper and gave him a cool new trout tie. Let’s encourage the Governor to do right by trout and people by protecting and restoring the Colorado River!

NEW MEXICO, WHAT’S GOING ON? Last week New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez appointed a new person to be the director of the Interstate Stream SUSANA-MARTINEZCommission. Unfortunately this person was a vice president for a big engineering company that had over $1 million in contracts with the very same Interstate Stream Commission to study and design the “Gila River Diversion,” a large draining of water out of the last free-flowing river in New Mexico. Is that a conflict of interest? We sent out this press release (click here to read it) and are encouraging folks to once again contact the Governor’s office and ask her to STOP the Diversion and focus on alternatives instead.

Finally, it’s REALLY SNOWING in Colorado this week. Some friends sent us this provocative photo — enjoy!save-the-powder

Stay tuned for more action!


Gila River Diversion: Conflict of interest in New Mexico?

February 23, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, E.D. Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Governor Martinez appoints new Interstate Stream Commissioner

Colorado River, U.S.: The controversy around the proposed Gila River Diversion in New Mexico keeps escalating. Recall that the New Mexico Governor-appointed “Interstate Stream SUSANA-MARTINEZCommission” agreed to support the Diversion in late 2014. The agreement in part stemmed from a widely criticized but favorable design and evaluation work done by an engineering consulting firm, Bohannon-Huston Inc., a company paid over $1 million by the State Commission in the past 3 years. Now, Governor Martinez has appointed the Vice President of Bohannon-Huston to be the new Director of New Mexico’s Interstate Stream Commission. Read the story here on KRWG TV’s website, “Martinez Appoints New Leader For New Mexico Commission Overseeing Possible Gila Diversion.”

The State of New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission had these past contracts with Bohannon-Huston Inc. for work in the Gila (“AWSA” is the Gila River Diversion):

  1. 5/14/2012 Bohannon-Huston, Inc. Review with ISC staff the project objectives, requirements and design criteria as available. Assist the ISC staff in crafting draft scopes of work for engineering assessments of the 16 projects selected by the ISC for further assessment for funding under the 2004 AWSA GR-12-1 9714 $8,440
  2. 1/15/2013 Bohannon-Huston, Inc. Grant County effluent reuse and reservoir and City of Bayard effluent reuse GR-13-1 10576 $67,908
  3. 5/7/2013 Bohannon-Huston, Inc. Gila Engineering Services GR-13-2 11041 $260,686
  4. 9/4/2013 Bohannon-Huston, Inc. Grant County effluent reuse and reservoir and City of Bayard effluent reuse GR-13-1 11638 $18,990
  5. 5/12/2014 Bohannon-Huston, Inc. Phase II Engineering Evaluation of the 2004 AWSA Diversion and storage proposals GR-14-1 12596 $698,527TOTAL: $1,054,551

“What’s going on in New Mexico?” ask Gary Wockner, E.D. of the Save The Colorado River Campaign. ”Is it a ‘conflict of interest’ for Governor Martinez to appoint an executive of a state contractor to an important post which funds and oversees those contracts?”

The Gila River in New Mexico is one of the last free-flowing tributaries in the Colorado River basin.



PRESS RELEASE: Missouri River Pipeline Bill Highlights Fiscal Irresponsibility of Colorado Water Plan

For Immediate Release
February 17, 2015
Contact: Gary Wockner, E.D., Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Missouri River Pipeline Bill Highlights Fiscal Irresponsibility of Colorado Water Plan

Denver, CO: On Wednesday February 18, the Colorado House of Representatives Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee will have a hearing on House Bill 15-1167 concerning the development of new water supplies for the growing areas of Colorado along the I-25 corridor from Colorado Springs to Denver to Greeley. Section 1-IV of the bill states, “Assess the feasibility of constructing a pipeline to import water into Colorado from the Missouri River basin; …”

Often called the “Missouri River Pipeline,” this idea was also proposed during the U.S. Dept. of Interior’s “Basin Study” back in 2013 and dismissed by Secretary Ken Salazar 10water-map-popupas “impractical and not feasible” amid cost estimates of $8.6 billion. However, now just a little over two years later, a draft of the “Colorado Water Plan” (which doesn’t include the Missouri River Pipeline) indicated that the plan would cost up to $20 billion to achieve many of the same goals and likely require a multi-billion dollar statewide tax increase to pay for it.

“This Missouri River Pipeline bill highlights the fiscal irresponsibility of the Colorado Water Plan,” said Gary Wockner, E.D. of the Save The Colorado River Campaign. “Just two years ago everyone said $8.6 billion was a ridiculous amount of money, and now the state agency in charge of the Colorado Water Plan suggests that $20 billion is reasonable. This Colorado Water Plan is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle to destroy Colorado’s rivers – it has been completely taken over by the water buffaloes in the state.”

The extremely controversial process around the Colorado Water Plan has dragged on for eighteen months and will continue through the end of 2015. The plan is proposed to be a policy guide to provide water to new population growth, much of which would take place in sprawling suburbs along the Denver megalopolis. In Colorado and throughout the Southwest U.S., fifty percent or more of municipal water is used in sprawling suburbs to keep Kentucky blue grass green in semi-desert environments.

“The Colorado Water Plan highlights how ridiculous and expensive it is to use precious water to grow grass,” said Wockner. “But, to be sarcastic, if we’re going to use the water to grow Kentucky bluegrass, then why not import water from around Kentucky to keep it green – it could be a lot cheaper than the Colorado Water Plan, right?”

The Missouri River Pipeline concept is still moving forward whether Colorado participates or not. (See Circle of Blue news service article.) In fact, a report on the Pipeline concept was just released by the Army Corps of Engineers in January 2015. The proposal in the Basin Study was to divert 600,000 acre feet of Missouri River water to Colorado, which is about 1% of the 60 million-acre-foot average flow in the Missouri River.

However, both the Colorado Water Plan and Missouri River Pipeline bill highlight why cheaper, faster, easier alternatives should also be studied and implemented first. Save The Colorado urges state agencies to study a “Healthy Rivers Alternative,” much like what was prepared for the Cache la Poudre River of Northern Colorado. Called “A Better Future for the Poudre River,” the reported indicated that the water needs of one proposed dam/reservoir project to support new growth could be satisfied by focusing on water conservation, recycling, reuse, growth management, water transfers from farms that growth will occur on top of, and water-sharing agreements with farmers (so-called “Super Ditch” concepts). In fact, the Basin Study report put out by the U.S. Dept. of Interior supported a similar proposal, that “Conservation is the cheapest, quickest solution to the West’s water woes.” The report calculated these water supply costs for comparison:

  • Ocean desalination: $1,500 to $2,100 per acre foot of water, 15 to years to see first water
  • Missouri River pipeline: $1,700 – $2,300 per acre foot, 30 years to first water
  • Towing icebergs down from Alaska: $2,700 – $3,400 per acre foot, 15 years to first water
  • Municipal conservation – $500 – $900 per acre foot, 5 years to first water
  • Agricultural conservation – $150 – $750 per acre foot, 10 years to first water

“Will Colorado waste billions of dollars on plans and pipeline schemes, or will Colorado focus on the cheapest, fastest, easiest path to new water supply?” asked Wockner. “In addition, a Healthy Rivers Alternative protects rivers in Colorado and in neighboring states.”


PRESS RELEASE: Governors Omit “Colorado River” From State of the State Speeches

For Immediate Release
February 11, 2015
Contact: Gary Wockner, E.D., Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Despite its Importance in the West, Governors Fail to Address “Colorado River” in Key Speeches
Poll results indicate voters prioritize healthy rivers

Colorado River, USA: In the last month, all seven governors in the Colorado River basin gave their “State of the State” (SOTS) speeches, and the one big thing that ties all seven together – the Colorado River – was not mentioned in any of their speeches. An analysis of the speeches, as well as a word cloud created by Save The Colorado (below), showed the complete omission of the phrase “Colorado River” and the word “river” was only mentioned twice and unrelated to protecting any rivers.

All of this neglect is in glaring conflict with a poll released yesterday – the “State of the Rockies” poll by Colorado College – indicating that voters in the Rocky Mountain states believe “low levels in rivers” is their single “most serious” concern.  Further, the poll indicated that 74% of voters in the headwaters states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming believe that elected officials should focus on “conservation, reuse, and recycling” to get new water supplies rather than “diverting more water from rivers.”

The 2015 seven-state Colorado River Governors’ SOTS word cloud is here:

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The Colorado River and its tributaries are the lifeblood of the Southwest U.S. – providing water for urban populations, agriculture, and the environment across the entire basin from Denver to Los Angeles. Further, an economic study released last month by the business organization “Protect The Flows” indicated that the Colorado River provides $1.4 trillion of GNP to the seven states.

Further yet, over the past three years several studies by scientists and the U.S. Dept. of Interior have indicated that the Colorado River is in long-term drought, threatened even more by climate change, and an official “shortage” is likely to be declared in the next few years for the first time in history that would decrease the water available for diversion. Reservoir levels are at historic lows, river flows are decreasing, and fish and wildlife habitat as well as the recreation economy along the river are threatened. In 2013 the Colorado River was named the “Most Endangered River in America,” and the river is completely drained dry before it reaches the Gulf of California.

“The Colorado River ties these governors together and creates much of the economy, culture, and environment for every one of their states and this entire region of the U.S.,” said Gary Wockner who directs the Save The Colorado River Campaign from Fort Collins, Colorado. “Their complete failure to mention the Colorado River or to discuss healthy river flows in their speeches is a serious disconnect between them and the voters who elected them. We have a long way to go to get these governors and other decision makers to recognize that healthy flowing rivers are important pieces of regional economies and the environment.”

  • In New Mexico, Governor Susana Martinez has refused to take a position on the proposed billion-dollar Gila River Diversion. She has allowed her Interstate Stream Commission to support it even while many local and conservation groups oppose it. The Gila flows into the Colorado River – the diversion would have dramatic negative impacts on the free-flowing Gila.
  • In Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper’s Water Conservation Board Director James Eklund has created a draft of the first-ever “Colorado Water Plan” which so-far has proposed new massive and exorbitantly expensive diversions out of the state’s rivers including the Colorado River. Governor Hickenlooper has not yet taken a strong position on the draft plan, but has indicated he supports conservation more than new diversions.
  • In Arizona, Governor Ducey’s state will likely be the first to feel the pinch as drought, overuse, and climate change continue their grip on the Colorado River – the Central Arizona Project predicted a 61% chance of a “shortage” being declared that would impact their allotment of Colorado River water. Governor Ducey has not yet spoken out about river protection in his state.

The seven Governors are Jerry  Brown from California, Doug Ducey from Arizona, Matt Mead from Wyoming, John Hickenlooper from Colorado, Brian Sandoval from Nevada, Susana Martinez from New Mexico, and Gary Herbert from Utah.  The text of all seven speeches is posted here.