Some time before the Colorado River was declared last week -- for the third time -- to be the most endangered river in the U.S., UA water researcher Sharon Megdal wrote a column saying that it was time to act now to tackle the river's myriad of problems relating to water supplies and future potential water shortages. Her column was published in Water Resource, the journal of the UA's Water Resources Research Center, of which Megdal is director. It came shortly after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation published a study in December warning that the overallocated river could run 3.2 million acre feet or more short of projected demand by 2060.
Here is her conclusion:
"Of course, the 3.2 million figure is only an estimate, and we know that projections are usually wrong – especially those 50 years out. The actual imbalance may be lower or it may be higher. The debate should not be on the figure but on what we do to prepare ourselves.
"If it turns out that we unexpectedly enter a very wet period and we have over-prepared, we can all congratulate ourselves – or others can congratulate us posthumously – on what an excellent job we did of water management. However, if we do not take action now to develop the strategies to addressing imbalances, we will have failed doing for future generations what past generations have done for us, namely identifying the path(s) to water security."
Reacting Tuesday to the news that the river was America's most endangered river once again, Megdal, who also is a board member for the Central Arizona Project -- Tucson's main drinking water supply -- said in an email that the bureau study, besides fingering a potential shortage, also contained information that will help officials determine the costs, water benefits and time frames for putting into effect any of the various options available for correcting the river's expected shortages.
"It will take a concerted effort by the multiple stakeholders to determine the pathways for addressing the multiple shortfalls," she said. "There are no quick fixes, but certainly collaboration among the many parties and additional financial resources will be necessary for implementation of what will likely be a suite of actions."