We need to come to terms with the fact that we’re using less water

tl;dr Western water policy and politics has to come to grips with the fact that overall water use is declining, not rising, as populations and economies grow. The longer version…. Two years ago, when I was deeply immersed in the act of writing my book, I had an incredibly important conversation with Emily Davis, my …

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New USGS data shows municipal water use, including in the West, continues to decline

The latest USGS data on water use by U.S. municipalities shows a continued decline, despite a growing population. This not just a decline in per capita use, though it is that. But per capita use continues to drop faster than population is rising in most areas. Brett Walton has a nice summary of the findings, …

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When people have less water, they use less water

Consumptive use of Colorado River water by the states of the Lower Basin (Nevada, California, and Arizona) is on track this year to be at its lowest since 1986. This graph, which I put together this weekend for a talk I’m giving at the Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum at Colorado Mesa University in …

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“the Eden of all bass fishermen”

One of my favorite bits of business that never made it into my Colorado River book was a late afternoon encounter at Lake Mead’s Boulder Harbor boat ramp with a guy named Scotty. I was thinking about Scotty when I came across the image below, in a 1946 Bureau of Reclamation report on the development …

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More evidence that climate change is reducing the Colorado River’s flow

Scientists for many years have projected a decline in the Colorado River’s flow as a result of a warming climate. But it’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve begun to see evidence that this is already happening. The system has a lot of natural variability, so detecting the relatively smaller impact of …

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Fish returning to the Fraser in one of Colorado’s high mountain valleys

An example of what can happen when folks stop fighting over water and search for common ground paths: Now, instead of a wide shallow creek, the low-flow Fraser River drops into a narrow channel that allows to run deeper, faster and colder. That led to a nearly immediate rebound in the fish population, according to …

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Looking for flexibility within Arizona

Arizona’s current internal political struggles over allocation and management of shortage on the Colorado River illustrate a central dilemma in the basin’s transition from the era of managing development of the river’s water to the era of managing scarcity. While we generally have demonstrated the ability to use less water across a range of water …

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The resilience of the U.S.-Mexico Colorado River relationship

In a recent paper in Water International, Jacob Petersen-Perlman and colleagues identified one of the central features scholars have found in their study of international water agreements: Once institutional capacity is established between parties it has been proven to be resilient over time, even as conflict was being waged over other issues. Sitting in an …

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Creeping forward on the Colorado River

“The network”, as I call the Colorado River governance structure in my book, is gathering this week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to among other things celebrate the signing of a new agreement extending the agreement between the United States and Mexico over water sharing and allocation on the Colorado River. Two years ago at …

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Palo Verde Irrigation District sues Metropolitan Water District over Colorado River water

One of California’s largest Colorado River farm water districts is suing the state’s largest municipal water agency, charging that efforts to move farm water to cities are threatening the viability of agriculture in one of the oldest farming valleys on the river. The Palo Verde Irrigation District, in a suit filed last month in Riverside …

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