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In many interstate river basins, the institutional arrangements for the governance and management of the shared water resource are not adequately designed to effectively address the many political, legal, social, and economic issues that arise when the demands on the resource exceed the available supplies. Even under normal hydrologic conditions, this problem is frequently seen in the Colorado River Basin. During severe sustained drought, it is likely that the deficiencies of the existing arrangements would present a formidable barrier to an effective drought response, interfering with efforts to quickly and efficiently conserve and reallocate available supplies to support a variety of critical needs. In the United...
Our nation periodically reviews national water policy and considers its directions for the future. The most recent examination was directed at the western United States and the role of the federal agencies in meeting its needs. The West is no longer the frontier, but rather contains vibrant cities and booming centers of international trade, as well as tourism, mineral, and oil and gas development, agricultural, and other development. In this changing environment, federal water policies need to consider the long term sustainability of the West, provide justice to Indian tribes, protect the rivers and ecosystems on which natural systems depend, balance the needs of newcomers with those of agricultural users and communities,...
The impacts of a severe sustained drought on Colorado River system water resources were investigated by simulating the physical and institutional constraints within the Colorado River Basin and testing the response of the system to different hydrologic scenarios. Simulations using Hydrosphere's Colorado River Model compared a 38-year severe sustained drought derived from 500 years of reconstructed streamfiows for the Colorado River basin with a 38-year streamfiow trace extracted from the recent historic record. The impacts of the severe drought on streamfiows, water allocation, storage, hydropower generation, and salinity were assessed. Estimated deliveries to consumptive uses in the Upper Basin states of Colorado,...
We evaluated the effects of institutional responses developed for coping with a severe sustained drought (SSD) in the Colorado River Basin on selected system variables using a SSD inflow hydrology derived from the drought which occurred in the Colorado River basin from 1579-1616. Institutional responses considered are reverse equalization, salinity reduction, minimum flow requirements, and temporary suspension of the delivery obligation of the Colorado River Compact. Selected system variables (reservoir contents, streamflows, consumptive uses, salinity, and power generation) from scenarios incorporating the drought-coping responses were compared to those from Baseline conditions using the current operating criteria....
Survey data collected in the San Joaquin Valley of southern California and the Grand Valley of western Colorado reveal that residents of both areas believe that a severe sustained drought is likely to occur within the next 20–25 years and that their communities would be seriously impacted by such an event. Although a severe sustained drought affecting the Colorado River Basin would cause major economic and social disruptions in these and other communities, residents express little support for water management alternatives that would require significant shifts in economic development activities or in water use and allocation patterns. In particular, residents of these areas express little support for strategies...
This paper describes how a hydrologic model proved to be a valuable tool to help interested parties understand impacts to four threatened and endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado River. In 1994, the Ute Water Conservancy District initiated permitting and design of the Plateau Creek pipeline replacement. The project was considered a major Federal action and therefore subject to the National Environmental Policy Act. Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) entered the process to develop a Biological Opinion (BO) and determined that the project could potentially impact the endangered fish in the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River. The Section 7 consultation...
The waters of the Colorado River are divided among seven states according to a complex ?Law of the River? drawn from interstate compacts, international treaties, statutes, and regulations. The Law of the River creates certain priorities among the states and the Republic of Mexico, and in the event of a severe sustained drought, the Law of the River dictates the distribution of water and operation of the elaborate reservoir system. Earlier work indicated that there is remarkable resilience in the system for established uses of water in the Lower Basin of the Colorado River. This work shows, based on an application of the Law of the River using computer modeling of operations of facilities on the Colorado River, that...