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Celebrating Water in the Desert: Colorado River Day in Utah

PHOTO: The Green River is one of the two major Utah tributaries of the Colorado. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
PHOTO: The Green River is one of the two major Utah tributaries of the Colorado. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
July 26, 2013

MOAB, Utah – In Utah and six other states, Thursday was Colorado River Day, commemorating the date in 1921 that Congress changed the waterway’s name from the Grand River.

There's a push in the Colorado Basin states to unite urban and rural voices for water conservation.

At ceremonies in multiple communities, big-city mayors and small-town farmers signed petitions pledging to work together to save water.

New Mexico farmer Don Bustos said the effort is critical to agriculture and other facets of the economy.

"I know there's a lot of industries vying for that Colorado River water and how important it is to create those economies around a sustainable food system,” he said, “where the money stays right in the local community and is turned over at least three times with that same dollar from that water."

Utah is part of the Upper Colorado Basin. The river system irrigates 15 percent of the crops in the U.S. and is a drinking water source for 36 million people in seven major metropolitan areas, including Salt Lake City.

Assistant Interior Secretary Anne Castle said the Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study by the Bureau of Reclamation has given new intensity to efforts to protect the river system.

All seven states in the basin got to weigh in and all agreed there's a water crisis in the making without some changes to the way the system is managed.

"Hundreds, literally, of groups were involved,” Castle said. “So, the outreach that has been done around this Basin Study and the engagement in that process, I think, is the foundation for the heightened interest that you're seeing now."

Molly Mugglestone, co-director of the group Protect the Flows, said there is hope for the Colorado River, with three workgroups now studying ways to conserve water through reuse and new methods for farms, cities and industry.

"There's a lot of potential for water saving,” she said, “up to three-million acre-feet or more from these types of conservation measures that they will be looking at in the workgroups, and really getting specific about how we reach those conservation goals."


Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT