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New, Landmark Protections in Place for Colorado River

PHOTO: Bikers and rafters enjoy Glenwood Canyon, along the Colorado River. Courtesy Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
PHOTO: Bikers and rafters enjoy Glenwood Canyon, along the Colorado River. Courtesy Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
November 26, 2012

MOAB, Utah - A landmark agreement between the United States and Mexico sets up clear guidelines for how the Colorado River will be managed and protected through 2017. The agreement was recently signed and went into effect immediately. The Bureau of Reclamation says it is designed to make sure that the seven states the river flows through in the U.S., as well as Mexico, will have adequate access to its water.

Molly Mugglestone, project coordinator of Protect the Flows, a coalition of 600 businesses dedicated to helping preserve the Colorado River and its tributaries, says she is thrilled by the announcement.

"It really does set a precedent for what we hope is a long, good future for the Colorado River, in terms of decisions that are made that can really benefit the health of the river and the economy that is tied to the river."

In Utah, the effects will include better management for both using and conserving the water. The plans also include stepped up management for Lake Mead in times of both surplus water and drought, and measures that will help restore the river delta in Mexico, which currently is nearly dry.

Mugglestone says businesses and agriculture depend on a healthy river - with a river recreation economy worth $26 billion annually. She adds that work remains to be done to protect not only the Colorado, but also the tributaries that feed into it.

"There are strained rivers across the whole Colorado River system. Habitat is challenged, and to really create a healthier river, there's a need for more environmental flows and those kinds of things."

A plan for the entire Colorado River basin - including those river tributaries that flow through Utah - is currently under review by the Bureau of Reclamation.

The announcement is available from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT