Needed: A New Approach to the Colorado River

In an interview with Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, former Arizona Governor and former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit recommends new approaches to the challenges facing the Colorado River watershed.

2 minute read

January 19, 2019, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Reflection Canyon, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Juancat / Shutterstock

Dr. Jim Holway, director of the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, interviews former Arizona Governor and former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit on the subject of the Colorado River.

Here are a few highlights from the interview:

  • "The first challenge is to recognize that we live in a desert with huge and rapid climatic fluctuations. Across the twentieth century, we built the great system of reservoirs to store water against these fluctuations. But our assumptions regarding climate change and population growth were way off. We are now drawing more than a million acre-feet out of reservoir storage each year in excess of average inflow. And obviously that cannot continue. We must now work toward establishing balance across the entire basin. To get to that equilibrium will require adjustments from every water user: agricultural, municipal, power generation, and environmental uses. And it obviously can’t be done on a piecemeal, ad hoc basis; we’ll have to invent new processes of public involvement and shared adjustments from every town and city and farm in the basin." 
  • "In the West, connecting and integrating land and water use is a relatively new idea. Water use, like land use and zoning, has traditionally been a local affair, with little coordination or direction at the state or interstate level. But water is a common resource; developing on a local, project by project basis without thinking about regional supply and demand constraints inevitably leads to the crises and environmental degradation that we are now experiencing. The question is how to change that."

Monday, January 14, 2019 in Land Lines, Lincoln Institute Of Land Policy

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