Las Vegas Sun

May 26, 2022

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Avoiding dry reservoirs

Study recommends Colorado River users do more to preserve water supplies

A study released last week by the University of Colorado presented optimism that Colorado River reservoirs will have sufficient water supplies through 2026, but there was also discomforting news. Researchers cautioned that the river’s reservoirs could be depleted by 2057 because of climate change.

They pegged the odds of that happening at more than 25 percent if average river flows drop by 10 percent. They also said there would be a greater than 50 percent chance that Lake Mead, Lake Powell and other reservoirs could run dry by then if flows decline by 20 percent.

As reported Wednesday by Mary Manning on the Las Vegas Sun’s Web site, the study’s authors recommended that water managers rethink water management practices in an effort to avoid dry reservoirs. We couldn’t agree more, given that the river supplies drinking water to roughly 30 million Americans, including Southern Nevada residents.

As University of Colorado graduate student and study co-author Ken Nowak said: “The important thing is not to get lulled into a sense of safety or security with the near-term resiliency of the Colorado River basin water supply. If we do, we’re in for a rude awakening.”

That is why Southern Nevada is smart not to put all its emphasis on a single water source. A proposed pipeline that would bring in water from rural Northern Nevada is one option that makes sense.

Also, The Southern Nevada Water Authority has done a good job of persuading the public to use water more efficiently. Those conservation efforts resulted in a decline in water use of nearly 21 billion gallons between 2002 and 2008 despite rapid population growth in Southern Nevada.

But we’re still fighting an uphill battle because of the extended drought, which has caused a sharp decrease in reservoir water supplies. Reversing that trend will require increased cooperation on water management strategies among the states that share the river.

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