Photo by Patrick Semansky, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A dam consisting of a sunken barge and sheet piling is seen under construction on Bayou Chene in near Amelia, La., Monday, May 16, 2011, in an effort to prevent flooding from the Morganza Spillway’s opening in Amelia and nearby Morgan City. Tapping the excess water of the Mississippi and piping it to the West is among the suggestions to solve growing water needs in Utah and the Western States.
Published: Sunday, May 13 2012 6:21 p.m. MDT
Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on the impacts of the West’s shrinking water supply and the costly battle to find solutions. Read the first part: The fight for water: Here’s why the West’s oldest battle could hit you at the tap
SALT LAKE CITY — Towing icebergs to California, diverting Mississippi River water to the Colorado Front Range or building massive plants to desalinize water from the Sea of Cortez are among the options to counter future water shortages in the two basins of the Colorado River.
Other considerations include tearing down all the dams along the system to force groundwater recharge, prohibit new golf courses and place bans on man-made lakes, water parks or swimming pools for single-family homes.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is nearing the final stages of a study that for the first time in more than 40 years is charting projected supply and demand “imbalances” of Colorado River water — which was over-allocated some 90 years ago through a water-sharing agreement among Utah, six other Western states and Mexico. A draft of the study is slated to be released next month, with a final report scheduled for July.
An early analysis by the federal agency predicts that large-scale deficits of water in the river system — greater than 3.5 million acre-feet — are likely over the next 50 years. It translates into an inability to meet the needs of millions of households, businesses or agricultural operations unless solutions can be found to cut use or increase supply.
The grim scenario is especially plausible given the volatile impacts of climate change, leading the agency for the first time to incorporate how weather changes will play out in specific impacts to the seven states that depend on the river.
“This is a pretty careful scrub of how water demands will unfold over the next couple of decades,” said Dave Trueman, the bureau’s division chief over resource management.
“The water supply will be different, dramatically different,” he said.