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Balancing Supply & Demand on the Colorado River

February 3, 2012

FRISCO, Colo. - Coloradans were on Capitol Hill this week, offering options on how the government can preserve and protect the Colorado River's water resources for future generations - and preserve Colorado businesses as well.

The Colorado River snakes more than 1,400 miles through the West, from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to the delta in Mexico. Along the way, it faces competing demands: for drinking water, recreation and irrigation for crops.

The Department of the Interior is in the final stages of developing a plan to preserve the Colorado for future generations.

Zeke Hersh, who leads angling trips along the river for Blue River Anglers in Frisco, headed to Washington this week with the group "Protect the Flows."

"We're definitely pushing towards the common-sense goals and solutions, such as improving urban conservation and agricultural efficiency."

The Colorado trickles out in the delta before it meets the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, Hersh says, but he's also seen the river closed to recreation because tributaries - such as the Blue River in Colorado - dried up.

"Potentially, rivers can dry up as they go down into an arid environment, which the Colorado does. But when it dries up at the headwaters and at the delta, that's a pretty striking picture."

Protect the Flows reports that the Colorado provides drinking water for 36 million people including those in the Denver metro area, irrigates 15 percent of the nation's crops and draws millions of people every year for recreation.

Some less practical ideas to preserve the Colorado were under consideration, Hersh says, such as trucking in icebergs from Alaska to melt near the headwaters.

The Department of the Interior just completed its public input period and began considering options for the Colorado this week. A final study is to be published in July.

More information is on the Interior Department's Lower Colorado River website, usbr.gov. Protect the Flows is at protectflows.com.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO