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iSeeChange: Making Every Drop Count


The consensus on iSeeChange last week was…it’s hot! Too hot for this time of year. Too hot and too dry. If climate change experts are right, this will only get worse. KVNF’s Marty Durlin spoke to Dave Kanzer, senior water resources engineer for the Colorado River Conservation District, about the effects of a hotter, dryer world.


The biggest part of Dave Kanzer’s job is to help us conserve water – a job that only gets bigger as the drying effects of climate change are felt across the Colorado River basin.

“Climate change is a scary thing,” says Kanzer. "Of course we have been working with others including the Bureau of Reclamation who just finished a multi-year study on this very issue. And projections are not very rosy going down the road. We have observed a drying in the last 20 years below the hundred-year observed record. In other words, we have seen a decrease in available water supplies, and projections are we will continue to see a decreasing availability of water supplies.”

The Colorado River Supply and Demand study, or the basin study can be found online at the Bureau of Reclamations website, usbr.gov.

According to Kanzer, “Some of the results from the Basin Study suggest a decrease of available water in the next fifty years up to ten percent in the Colorado River Basin. That may not sound like a lot to listeners, but if that occurs, and how it occurs really can impact our ability to utilize water in our ongoing way of life.”

“Now there are also many options and strategies,” he says, “that were developed in that study to address these drying conditions: increased use of technology, greater conservation, and even exchanges, creative ways of using our existing supply. We are, like most irrigators, always optimistic about next year’s precipitation and ways to address these issues. We do have Lake Powell, although it’s only half full this year and projected to decline a little bit. It provides our bank account and protects our users in the upper Colorado River basin against curtailments from the Colorado River compact. We have a good system in place. We’re diligently monitoring the situation trying to make sure every drop of water is used to its maximum benefit.”

Despite the daunting issues, Kanzer remains upbeat about his job and the mission of protecting the Colorado River and helping its users.

“It’s an amazing system,” he says, “from the headwaters here in the backyard of Paonia, all the way down to the Colorado River delta, which may see water flowing for the first time in about ten years, through a very interesting cooperative agreement with the Republic of Mexico. There’s no shortage of issues, a lot of challenges, some successes, and we need everyone engaged as we move forward and try to address some of these really challenging issues.”

The website is coloradoriverdistrict.org, for folks who are interested in what the watershed is, and what it might become in the future.

Marty Durlin contributes freelance news features, including coverage of Delta County Commissioner's meetings and local governmental issues.