The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s April 1 forecast is up 1.9 million feet from a month earlier. How to think about how much water that is?
A friend who thinks a lot about water and public communication, but who is not from the Colorado River Basin, was commenting recently on our euphemisms – the “structural deficit” in particular. For those not familiar with the term, it is the amount by which the Lower Colorado River’s water is overallocated. The system’s “paper water” – allocations handed out in the system’s rules – is 1.2 million acre feet greater than the actual available “wet water”.
Seeing our language from the point of view of a smart outsider was helpful, and gave me pause. I ultimately had to agree that structural deficit was a) a euphemism that doesn’t work at all well in communicating with the general public, and b) an incredibly useful language tool for the informed Colorado River community.
The alternative language, still commonly used, is “drought”. But drought offloads the responsibility to climate. “Structural deficit”, for those thinking hard about the river, moves the problem back within water management accountability. The difference involves which audience you’re speaking with.
Since I presume anyone patient enough to stick with my blog blathering this long is likely a member of “b”, I’ll double down on “structural deficit” for you.
The increase in the March forecast is equal to ~1.6 Structural Deficits.