Interior: Colorado River water supply to fall 3M acre-feet short by 2060

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Demand for Colorado River Basin water will exceed supply by 3.2 million acre-feet by 2060, projects a new study from the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation. A single household uses roughly 1 acre-foot of water annually.

Most of the increased demand for water will be from municipal and industrial users because of population growth, the study says.

A wide range of imbalances between supply and demand is plausible though, in part because of the uncertainty of climate change.

The Bureau of Reclamation received more than 150 ideas to resolve the imbalance from stakeholders and the public and picked 30 representative ideas to evaluate further. If implemented, they could yield about 5.7 million acre-feet of water per year by 2035 or 11 million acre-feet per year by 2060, the report says.

But excluding ideas that would impose major technical challenges or be unreliable reduces those potential yields to 3.7 million and 7 million acre-feet per year by 2035 and 2060 respectively. The options range from conservation and reuse to desalination and construction of new storage.

"Although not all of the proposals included in the study are feasible, they underscore the broad interest in finding a comprehensive set of solutions," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement Dec. 12.

The bureau includes no decisions in the report about how to address future water shortages, but it plans to convene with stakeholders in early 2013 to decide what steps to take next. The report also says improvements to climate change predictions will be key to planning.

The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water to almost 40 million people for municipal use and to irrigate more than 5 million acres of land. National parks, hydropower facilities and others also rely on the river.

For more:
- go to the "Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study" webpage

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