The Colorado River Supply and Demand
The Colorado River, the master drainage of the arid west, provides water to 40 million people and its waters are used to irrigate nearly six million acres of land. The changes to the Colorado River since the European missionaries, trappers and settlers first arrived, include some of the earliest transbasin diversions in the West, storage capacity that surpasses average annual flow in the basin, mainstem dams that are some of the most massive human made structures on Earth, and intensified conflict between ecological processes and growing demand for fresh water for growing southwestern cites.
Over the past decades, recognition of the ecological costs of human water development have led to major efforts to restore sites and segments within the basin. I will summarize a few of these efforts from the headawaters of the Colorado to the delta in Mexico, sharing common themes and challenges. I will also present a framework for using information from sites across the basin to inform and monitor restoration work and to forecast outcomes of alternative flow management scenarios and riparian response to projected climate change scenarios.