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First-Ever Colorado River Day Celebrated

PHOTO: It was 91 years ago that the “Grand” River was renamed the “Colorado.”
PHOTO: It was 91 years ago that the “Grand” River was renamed the “Colorado.”
July 26, 2012

PHOENIX, Ariz. - It was 91 years ago this week that the "Grand" River was renamed the "Colorado." States that rely on the Colorado for drinking water and economic benefits marked the occasion on Wednesday by celebrating the first-ever Colorado River Day.

Phoenix city councilman Bill Gates says water from the Colorado is like electricity for most folks: They don't think much about where it comes from and pretty much take it for granted.

"We need to recognize the importance of this river to not only the whole state of Arizona but to the City of Phoenix in particular, because the CAP - the Central Arizona Project - is such an important source of water."

Demands on the Colorado River now far exceed its supply. The aim of Colorado River Day is to promote conservation, to bring the river back into balance and to keep its water affordable for those who depend on it.

Linda Stitzer, Arizona senior water policy advisor for Western Resource Advocates, says the event brings together conservationists and fiscal conservatives in the common goal of using the river's water more efficiently.

"It's cheaper to implement conservation and quicker to implement conservation than to talk about importing water or other kinds of water-supply development."

Gates says significant water savings are still possible in many homes, using common-sense ideas like replacing old toilets and covering swimming pools.

"Turn the water off when you're not using it. One of the programs that we have within the City of Phoenix is to help people identify leaks. A lot of it is on the individual level."

Arizona has already done a lot to conserve water, Stitzer says, especially for agricultural uses. However, she is concerned Arizonans might be experiencing conservation fatigue.

"There's sort of a feeling that 'we've already done all this conservation, what more can we do?'. But we've seen per-capita rates - they're dropping by 1 percent a year. So there's certainly savings that can be had by stepping up our water conservation program."

The conservation message is being aimed at the Bureau of Reclamation, Department of the Interior and the region's state governors for inclusion in their forthcoming Colorado River Basin study.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ