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Updated Jul 17, 2013 - 1:03 pm

Congress urged to take action on Colorado River issue

DURANGO, Colo. — Government officials are urging Congress to consider
solutions to deal with possible water shortages in the Colorado River basin.

Those solutions could include finding ways to reduce demand, conservation and better management
of water supplies. Other solutions being considered include reuse of water and
augmentation from other water sources.

At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, officials said a two-year study by the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found the river will not be able to provide enough
water for its nearby communities in 50 years. The Colorado River basin and its
tributaries supply water to nearly 40 million people in seven states, including Arizona and
Colorado.

“We need to make every drop count,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said at the
Water and Power Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C.

Mike Connor, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, told lawmakers the
federal government needs help from each state if plans to save the river are
going to work.

Executive Director Kathleen Ferris of Arizona Municipal Water said federal
assistance is not necessary now.

She said if states need federal or congressional help, states will ask for it,
but she said she is not sure that point has been reached.

The basin has a $26 billion recreational economy, with more than 5 million
people visiting each year and supplying about 234,000 jobs across seven states,
said Taylor Hawes, the Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River program director.

“The region’s economic vitality and its rich natural heritage are at risk,”
Hawes said.

Chairman T. Darryl Vigil of the Colorado River Basin Tribes Partnership voiced
tribes’ concerns about losing their water rights with decreasing supplies.

“The 10 tribes are very concerned that … others with far more political
clout are relying on unused tribal water supplies and will seek to curtail
future tribal water use to protect their own uses,” he said.

___

Information from: Durango Herald, http://www.durangoherald.com

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