On July 25, San Diego Coastkeeper, Save the Colorado and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association joined together at Mission Bay Park to celebrate the inaugural “Colorado River Day,” an event marking the date the river was officially christened with its name in 1921.
More than a celebration of the river in title, local organizations combined forces to emphasize the dire situation of the depleting river and its tributaries that quench the thirst of America’s arid Southwest region, and to urge policymakers to implement common-sense solutions to meet the region’s future demand.
“In the last couple years, the supply of water coming down the river has gone down through the drought, and it’s going to continue going down due to climate change,” said Gary Wockner, campaign coordinator for the Save the Colorado organization. “Also, demand is going up. There are more and more people moving to the basin and wanting more water. We just got to the point a couple years ago where demand has increased and is now greater than supply.”
Under the leadership of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the federal government is seeking solutions over the next decade to address the supply-demand discrepancy.
“The Colorado River Basin study last fall offered some options that were put forward that are exorbitantly expensive, like towing icebergs down from Alaska or diverting the Mississippi River. [There is] also a project proposed in Wyoming which proposes to pump water and pipe it all the way across Wyoming to the front range of Colorado,” said Wockner. “All of these options cost tens of billions of dollars and would be environmentally destructive.”
The partnership of local organizations announced the launch of a petition and letter to state and federal officials, urging them to consider sensible alternative solutions — including urban conservation, agricultural efficiency and the use of water banks — to meet demand without further straining state and federal budgets.
“There are common-sense solutions to the crisis that we’re in in San Diego,” said Megan Baehrens, executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper. “We import well more than 50 percent of our water, and much of that comes from the Colorado River. We need to start with some really common-sense solutions to reduce our use and reduce the cost of the water we do have.”
Projections indicate that water rates will nearly double over the next decade, she said.
“We have seen a double-digit rate increase in the last few years. It’s very frustrating when we conserve and the rates still keep going up,” said Loni Lutar, president of the San Diego Taxpayers Association. “Extracting all the value we can from each drop of water we already have is in the best interest of taxpayers.”
Examples of the simple solutions supported by the partnership of organizations include implementing guidelines for region-appropriate landscape design, improving water-irrigation practices, enforcing wastewater ordinances and covering pools to prevent evaporation. Agricultural practices, too, could improve through regulated deficit irrigation, upgrading irrigation technology and improved irrigation scheduling.
“Let’s conserve water. Let’s not waste water. Let’s protect the Colorado River. Environmental conservationists and fiscal conservatives agree on a smart, common sense path forward,” said Wockner.
For more information about the Save the Colorado River initiative, visit www.coloradoriverday.org.