From an interesting talk last month by Margaret Bowman on a vision of what the Colorado River Basin solution space might look like (pdf of talk text here):
[T]he region’s agricultural industry will be modernized with more efficient irrigation technologies. This modernization will not only increase the productivity of agriculture, but will also result in a surplus of water that farmers can voluntarily sell or lease to cities and for river flows.
… [C]ities manage their water supplies smartly, with improved efficiency and recycling technologies. Residents transform their landscaping to look like the beautiful arid western landscape where they reside, rather than eastern green grass communities. With these changes, cities are resilient to unpredictable weather, and not rendered bankrupt due to expensive and environmentally damaging Rube Goldberg plans to pipe water in from faraway lands.
… [T]he iconic rivers of the basin remain healthy and resilient. As a result, the region’s $26 billon recreation and tourism industry continues to grow, and residents looking for a high quality of life are attracted to the region to work. Fish and wildlife are healthy, and as a result the region is not subjected to divisive and expensive endangered species act fights.
And finally … federal and state agencies, water utilities, farmers and ranchers, tribes and conservationists all work together to adapt our system of managing water so that energy can be spent on sharing water most effectively rather than litigating old disputes. With this more fluid market for sharing water (pardon the pun), private capital is attracted into investing in the region’s water solutions. Added to federal and state funding, these private investments can finance the infrastructure improvements needed to effectuate these changes.
The talk’s about 15 minutes and is worth a listen: