American Rivers representative to talk about challenges facing Colorado River
If you go …
What: “Shaping the Future of the Colorado River,” with Matt Rice, part of the Colorado Mountain College Women in Philanthropy Lecture Series.
When: Wednesday, April 20; reception at 6 p.m., presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Colorado Mountain College, 150 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards.
Cost: Free and open to the public.
More information: Call 970-569-2900 or go to coloradomtn.edu/campuses/edwards.
EDWARDS — Vail Valley residents have the opportunity to hear an in-depth presentation advocating for the Colorado River and its tributaries when Matt Rice, director of the Colorado Basin Program for American Rivers, gives a free talk at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards today.
“I really want to kind of talk about a positive, vibrant future for the Colorado River,” Rice said. “When I say the Colorado River, it’s the river, it’s the ecology, it’s the fish and wildlife and the people that depend on it, be it for recreation, like in Vail, or the farmers that depend on it downstream in Palisade.”
Rice will discuss some of the solutions that are out there so people come away from the talk with a better understanding of the river, how it works and why it’s important.
“I think a lot of people, when it comes to water, tend to kind of shy away because of the perceived complexity of it,” he said. “I also want to provide some inspiration for the future, some things that are happening, collaborations that are moving forward in the basin. … I want to paint a positive picture and not dwell on the doom and gloom.”
Threats to river
The Colorado River is arguably one of the most important river basins in the country, if not the world, Rice said, from an economic standpoint, an agricultural standpoint and a recreational, quality-of-life standpoint.
“The river spans seven states, it’s 1,450 miles long, it provides drinking water to close to 40 million people, it irrigates 15 percent of the irrigated crops in this country and drives, collectively, an annual economy of 1.4 trillion dollars,” he said. “So it’s pretty important.”
But as the populations in the states dependent upon the river have grown, so has the demand for water in the Colorado River Basin. At the same time, increasing temperatures due to climate change have caused surface water to diminish, particularly in the basin’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Powell in the upper basin and Lake Mead in the lower.
Because demand on the river’s water is greater than its supply, the Colorado now dries up nearly 100 miles from its historic juncture at the Sea of Cortez. The problem has become so critical that American Rivers named the Colorado one of our nation’s Most Endangered Rivers in both 2013 and 2014.
Rice said that while there is no silver-bullet solution for fixing the Colorado River’s problems, there are ways to begin to correct the current imbalance.
“The challenge is really making sure that we can put ourselves on a sustainable path,” Rice said. “We can use less water, we can reduce our water demand while we create the conditions to protect and keep water in rivers for all the benefits they provide to communities.”