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Colorado River stakeholders discuss how to address drought problems ahead of water users meeting

Posted at 7:48 PM, Dec 13, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Peeling back the official policy layers and diving deep (literally) into discussion and out-of-the-box ideas, scientists, Indigenous community leaders and government officials from all over the country came together before the Colorado River Water Users Association meets in Las Vegas Tuesday.

MORE: U.S. officials, scientists to discuss future of Colorado River

Scientist hit hard points on water reservoirs, quality, depletion and the status of water sources due to climate change. Government and policy makers discussed what actions need to be taken with regard to Colorado River water management.

"We blew past the drought 10 years ago. We are now in serious climate change. Reclamation is still using 20th century methods to address 21st century problems," said retired Congressman David Wegner.

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But before we start trying to fix 20th century mistakes, we have to go back even further to what was taken from Native Americans. They were the first water managers over the Colorado River but have since lost a lot of oversight privileges.

"I got real questions, like how long have you been working on your tan? Why do people live here; there is no green? I thought you were all dead. Why can’t you just share the land? We are still here," Nikki Cooley of the Diné (Navajo) Nation, who is the co-manager and interim assistant director of the Indigenous Teacher Education’s Tribes & Climate Change Program told 13 Action News.

What can be done to better manage the water?

"A Colorado River bill will have to acknowledge that it’s not a 15-million-foot-acre river. It’s probably a 10- or 11-million-foot-acre river," said Eric Balken, executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute & committee member of the Future of the Colorado Group.

Water managers will have to seriously look at reservoir consolidation, leaders acknowledged.

"We are in a period of permanent depletion, and the era of moderate abundance is over. It never was there," said Burke Griggs, a law professor at Washburn University. "We are in a period of permanent depletion because of over-allocation and groundwater over-pumping."

Many were in agreement that what might seem like drastic measures are necessary to protect the lives of the millions of people and animals who rely on water from the Colorado River — including potentially stopping diverting and damming the river.

"All diversions and dams in the Colorado River should to be stopped immediately. Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam should be scrapped and completely decommissioned," said Dan Beard, chief administrative officer of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom hosted the conference and said he hopes to make it an annual affair.