The Colorado River, which has long functioned as the lifeblood of the West, may not be able to support the region’s growing population in less than 50 years.
A three year study by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has found that in this region of more than 40 million people, water from the Colorado is already starting to be spread thin.
By 2060, the demand of seven states in the west will greatly exceed the amount of water that the river provides. These seven states are Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and of course California. This region will find itself 3.2 million to 8 million acre-feet short of where it needs to be in terms of river flow, according to the study.
Some have suggested that in order to mitigate this problem the United States government should divert part of the flow of the Missouri river via a pipeline. The pipeline would run to the Colorado, supplementing it with additional water to meet population needs.
This reflects narrow thinking on the part of anyone who would endorse such an idea.
By diverting the flow of the Missouri, we would be making one problem to solve another. Essentially, we would be harming the environment and ecological systems in another part of the country for the personal gain of a few states.
The way to solve this problem isn’t to make a huge pipeline, but to work toward a solution through a combination of conservation efforts and efficient technologies; the key to this impending crisis is ingenuity, not short-sightedness.
Speaking of which, are the results of this study a surprise to anyone? It seems only reasonable and logical to suspect that something like this might occur. If we’re running out of other resources like oil due to population growth, it’s perfectly logical to guess we’re running out of water too.
More and more people have come to call the West their home with the passing of each new day. We’re a region that is growing and that will continue to grow. Such being the case, it’s about time that we recognize that there is a problem.
Part of this problem is our water consumption habits.
Look at everything that we use water for in California; in the suburbs, people water their verdant lawns before washing their cars in the driveway, they do laundry, take showers, brush their teeth and mop the floor. They water the fichus and they wash the dog. The list goes on and on.
People often take water for granted, forgetting that in this region—and around the world—it’s a luxury.
Earlier I mentioned that the solution to the problem could potentially arise through a combination of new technologies and conservation efforts, so let’s talk a little bit about that.
Some talented inventors are already working toward a world in which we use water more efficiently.
One of the big problems is that we expend a lot of water when we use the bathroom. Toilets produced before 1992 flush an estimated 3.5 gallons of water down the drain. When you consider that most people use the bathroom multiple times a day, that’s a lot of water.
A South Korean inventor created a wastewater toilet that utilizes the water that we’ve already used to wash our hands to flush the toilet later on. That’s a definite way to use less water.
Another invention utilizes a trick that many Native Americans have been putting to practice for years and pushes it into overdrive: rainwater collection. Many companies have begun to produce rainwater storage tanks that allow people to effectively store water during times when it rains. This water can then be filtered and function as drinking water.
Granted, it still needs some work, but it’s a start.
And of course we have things like desalination plants, which although costly, are beginning to become common in many places throughout the globe. California may be a good place to establish one due its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
These are a few technologies worth noting, but they’re certainly not the only ones that could revolutionize how we use water. If we can work toward these kinds of technologies, we can significantly cut down on how much water we need from the Colorado.
But ultimately, technology can only get us so far. We need to change our behavior when it comes to our water consumption. When I mentioned conservation, I was primarily referring to our own actions as people. Sometimes we need to weigh the decision of what we really need water for.
Population will only increase in this area of the country, so we’re going to have to learn how to ration our water and use it more effectively. This is probably not such a big deal compared to the problems faced in other parts of the world, but it’s definitely worth recognizing.
So maybe turn your sprinklers off this week. We’ve had enough rain, anyway.