Report argues projects threaten Western water supplies

Jul 3, 2012

Large scale water projects are a growing phenomenon in the West. But a new study argues they could lead to water shortages and increased costs.

The report, “Pipe Dreams: Water Supply Pipeline Projects in the West,” is by the Natural Resources Defense Council and faculty at the University of New Mexico Law School. It examines 15 projects including several in New Mexico. The authors argue these projects do not account for climate change, the availability of water or energy use. And they argue that more cost-effective alternatives, such as water efficiency, are often ignored or not assessed adequately.

The greatest concentration of projects is in the Colorado River Basin, with proposals in recent years to divert nearly 700,000 acre feet of water annually. That’s about three times the annual water use of Denver, according to the report. And climate scientists project the Colorado basin is likely to see a runoff decline of 10 to 25 percent by mid-century.

In an earlier report, the NRDC put New Mexico into the category of states that have done nothing or very little to prepare for water-related climate impacts. While waterways comprise less than two percent of the landscape in New Mexico, they are critical to many wildlife species.