Save the Colorado River From Drying Up Due to Climate Change

Target: M. Camille Calimlim Touton, Commissioner of the United States Bureau of Reclamation

Goal: Support integrated action plan for preserving Colorado River Basin.

While sensationalistic stories of recovered bodies dominated much of the news coverage about the rapidly dwindling Colorado River and its reservoirs, the threats are much more expansive and the stakes far greater. This river provides habitat to countless animals and plants and crucial water supplies to several states. Some of these regions are now at critical mass in water shortages, prompting calls for drastic cuts in usage that disproportionately affect some communities due to archaic water rights laws. While the back-and-forth finger-pointing continues, compromise and action seem far away. But a historic blueprint could help.

Centuries ago, when white settlers first came to the lands around the Yakima River, their overuse of the water and irrigation systems quickly created water access problems that would continue for decades, particularly as droughts grew in intensity. The communities around the river, the native descendants, and other involved parties spent most of their time in litigation…and the crisis only escalated. Eventually, after many studies and forecasts, everyone realized that they were on a slow-motion course to disaster if they did not start working together. After much hard work and compromise, they created the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. This expansive and ongoing initiative includes dam improvements, replenishment of dried streams via enhanced canals, and habitat and fish passage protection.

Sign the petition below to urge a similar inspired plan to save the Colorado River.


Dear Commissioner Touton,

The Colorado River is already leaving communities across the West with the very real prospect of critical water shortages. As climate change continues its ravages, these dangers will only escalate. The one thing on which almost everyone can agree is that urgent action needs to be taken.

The Yakima Basin Plan is a template worth considering. While critics may dismiss using it as inspiration because of the difference in sizes of the two rivers, the fundamentals are universal. Improvements to reservoirs and irrigation systems and thoughtful protections for fish passage and other habitat considerations are not earth-shattering proposals. But through compromise—and through talking to rather than at each other—the Yakima communities have managed to bring their valued waterway back from the brink.

Water cuts are not a long-term solution, and water sharing can never work effectively with outdated water first rights laws in play. This beleaguered region desperately needs a forward-thinking solution. Please consult with the leaders responsible for making the Yakima plan possible, bring together stakeholders of the Colorado River Basin, and help carefully craft this essential path forward.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Paul Hermans

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