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Water Demands Outstrip Supply in Colorado River Basin

February 3, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A coalition of businesses along the Colorado River took its concerns about water supply-and-demand issues to Washington this week. Members of the group "Protect the Flows" shared potential solutions with the Interior Department and members of Congress.

Recreation and tourism are the lifeblood of the West, says Steve Harris, who runs Far Flung Adventures in El Prado. He supports the establishment of water banks, a system where business users can make water "deposits" and "withdrawals."

"In a time where this disparity between supply and demand is starting to grow, this is a new way of sharing limited water resources."

Harris says the group's proposals are practical ideas for preserving the river. The Colorado provides drinking water for 36 million Americans, irrigates nearly 4 million acres of land and supports nearly 800,000 jobs in seven states including 47,000 in New Mexico.

Protect the Flows also suggests giving rebates for using swimming pool covers. Harris says the water savings is significant.

"A recreational swimming pool in a backyard in this arid Colorado River Basin evaporates 14,000 gallons a year."

Addressing water waste and landscape design are other ways to conserve Colorado River water, Harris says. For instance, Albuquerque has restricted hours for watering lawns and issues citations for violating them. He says xeriscaping - landscaping to minimize the need for watering - is common now in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

"It's now the law in those cities that all new construction will have these water-saving features. Landscape irrigation is about half of a family's water consumption."

One phase of a study on Colorado River use closes this week. The Bureau of Reclamation has been gathering proposals from numerous groups working to resolve the growing imbalance between the river's water demand and supply.

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

Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM