The Colorado River is vital to the seven western states and 10 tribes that hold claim to its waters. The water helps to sustain a population of more than 30 million people—far beyond what could have been envisioned when the original Colorado River Compact was drafted in 1922.
Today, the Colorado River is in the midst of a 12-year drought. The Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study released in late 2012 projected the potential long-term effects of a shortage. The study also shows that investments in augmentation, increasing water management efficiency and water conservation can restore the reliability and sustainability of the Colorado River to meet current and future water needs.
There are three primary methods Central Arizona Project (CAP) is focusing on in terms of water augmentation:
- Removing non-native species, such as tamarisk, which could considerably decrease water losses in the main stem of the Colorado River
- Desalination projects are being studied by CAP, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Southern Nevada Water Authority to identify optimal designs for the Yuma Desalination Plant to treat brackish (briny) water and seawater
- Weather modification, which supports cloud seeding projects in the Upper Colorado River basin, and is aimed at generating greater runoff volumes in the Colorado River
Water augmentation was a big topic at the recent Water Education Foundation's Colorado River Symposium held in Santa Fe last month where CAP General Manager David Modeer was a speaker. As the region faces drought, the effects of climate change and an increasing population, topics like this will be worthy of greater exploration – and will be explored in greater detail in future issues of the CAP Blog: Water Ways and Power Lines.