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Agency Seeks Comment on Colorado River Basin Strategy

The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation has been taking a hard look at the Colorado River Basin, exploring ways to deal with the reality that the Colorado River can’t always deliver all of the water that people demand.

The need for new coping strategies is clear to anyone who sees the vivid bathtub rings around Lake Powell and Lake Mead. The river serves more than 35 million people and irrigates 4.5 million acres of crops in seven states. And the pressures are only expected to grow. The agency has a new list of strategies to prepare for times when water demands exceed Colorado River supplies.

“Imbalance of supply and demand,” says Carly, who led Reclamation’s effort, “just puts a lot of stress on all of the things that are dependent on water.”

That includes communities, businesses, farms, recreation and the environment. And it means conserving water, reusing it and updating the pipe network. Bart Forsyth, assistant general manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, served as Utah’s representative in the cities and industry stakeholder group looking at the issue for the Bureau of Reclamation. He helped brainstorm dozens of water solutions. To him, the biggest change ahead has nothing to do with technology.

“What we’re looking for is a mindset change -- a community value system,” he says, “where we’re all looking to save water, to understand how valuable it is as a natural resource and to basically incorporate a water conservation ethic.”

One of the top ideas from Forsyth’s stakeholder team is smart metering, which allows customers to monitor their water use online, as it happens. Around 8,500 of the systems will be installed and operational in a year in Salt Lake County.

The report is formally called “Moving Forward.” The Bureau of Reclamation will take comments on the strategy through August 10.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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