The Bureau of Reclamation, long past its era of pushing for new, costly water projects, issued a joint statement last week with its parent agency the Interior Department praising American Rivers for declaring the Colorado River the country's most endangered river.
“The Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation are among the many individuals and organizations that care deeply about the future of the Colorado River," said the statement from Anne Castle, Assistant Interior Secretary for Water and Science. "The river is the essential foundation to the health and prosperity of the American Southwest and provides multiple and diverse benefits including water supplies for agriculture and people, outdoor recreation, clean energy generation, and unparalleled ecosystems.
"We commend American Rivers for bringing further visibility to the problems facing this critical resource and for acknowledging the successes of the Department’s WaterSMART and Title XVI programs in mitigating some of these problems."
(For the record, the WaterSMART program makes grants for projects that save water, improve energy efficiency, address endangered species issues and work on a local water system's overall operating efficiency, among other projects. Title XVI is a federal, cost-sharing program offering grants for water recycling and reclamation projects -- treating and reusing wastewater as drinking water is one example).
"The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study is our most recent collaborative effort with the seven Colorado River Basin states and a broad spectrum of interested stakeholders to address the challenges to the river. The study is a critical first step in the basin to establish a common technical foundation from which important discussions can begin regarding possible strategies to reduce future supply and demand imbalances. . . We will continue to work with all stakeholders to move forward and build on the foundations laid by laid by these ground breaking efforts.”
The study referred to here came out in late 2012, and warned that the river's annual supply could run 3.2 million to 8 million acre feet short of demand by 2050 due to increased growth and climate change.
The statement did not say whether the bureau and Interior agree that the Colorado is the country's most endangered river. When asked what the agencies think about that ranking, bureau spokeswoman Rose Davis said, "I'd have to ask you go back to Assistant Secretary Castle's statement - which doesn't necessarily answer your question but it is our complete statement on the report."