The Ever Giving Colorado River—until it’s not

river picThe Colorado River is the life line that supports not only humans but numerous wildlife ecosystems found alongside its fluid splendor.  I often think about how our bodies are comprised of mostly water and the importance of proper hydration. However, in the past few months I have begun to consider the significance of water from an environmental perspective and less on a cellular level.

According to The Colorado Climate Change Initiative of 2015, the health of the Colorado River must be realized and conservations efforts established to protect Colorado’s natural water resource. The Colorado River is replenished by melting snow packs from surrounding mountain ranges. However, in the last three decades the snow melts have been coming earlier due to the warming of the climate (1). The impact of this variance can lead to drought affecting reservoirs crucial to providing accessible drinking water, agriculture needs, and wildlife habitat.

Agriculture requires a significant amount of water as does the populated towns and cities throughout Colorado. As the temperature increases the impact of climate change will become more apparent and the probability of droughts more common. The environmental factors known to have the greatest impact on climate change surround fluctuation in precipitation, increase in temperature and outdoor irrigation practices. The demands on the water can be modified if agriculture producers are willing to work with water suppliers and devise a plan that benefits both parties involved. The demand for food will only increase as populations continue to grow; reiterating the importance of considering reclaimed water for landscape and irrigation purposes.

The Colorado River infrastructure is in dire need of modernization. The structures currently in place were assembled in the 60’s and 70’s. The fluctuating seasons and increase in temperature could prove to be a problem for older constructions because of weatherization and outdated designs. In order for the older dams to remain functional, constant repair and maintenance are required. According to Mathews JH, “Precipitation trends are now moving closer to the 1,200-year mean, which implies that the existing infrastructure and patterns of water allocation throughout the basin face difficult tradeoffs between agriculture, cities, and energy production”(2).

raftWestern Colorado is known by outdoor enthusiasts as a place of destination for hiking, biking, rafting and camping. The Colorado River provides economic stability for residents living in the Grand Valley because of tourism. However, there are those living in the Grand Valley who are unable to afford fees associated with state parks because their hourly wage barely meets costs for housing and basic living necessities. According to the United States Census Bureau (3) over 18 percent of Grand Junction’s sixty thousand residents live in poverty.  I consider this to be socially unjust because everyone living near a state park should be able to enjoy its splendor without having to worry about exceeding the family budget.

scenic river

Resources

  1. United States, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Colorado Water Conservation Board. (n.d.). Colorado climate plan: State level policies and strategies to mitigate and adapt.
  2. Matthews JH, Wickel BA, Freeman S (2011) Converging Currents in Climate-Relevant Conservation: Water, Infrastructure, and Institutions. PLoS Biol 9(9): e1001159. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001159
  3. Grand Junction Demographics http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045214/0831660
  4. Adobe Stock Photos – Adobe Membership

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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