A coalition of elected officials, farmers, conservationists and tribal leaders gathered at the Hoover Dam Thursday and called on lawmakers to place a moratorium on “wasteful” new pipelines or dams that would divert water from the parched Colorado River. The announcement came as a severe drought deepens across the West and as a massive infrastructure bill is slowly moving through Congress.
“We have to be very vigilant that Congress doesn’t fund bad projects through a massive omnibus bill where there’s a lot of room for skullduggery and chicanery,” said Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which helped organize the coalition.
He points towards the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline as an example of one such project. It would pump water from one of the Colorado River’s largest reservoirs to one of the region’s fastest growing cities – St. George, Utah. Critics say the pipeline would further deplete already dwindling supplies of water.
Roerink said the coalition is fine with smaller water infrastructure projects, however, that would bring tribal nations their allocated share of drinking water from the river. Both Lake Powell and Lake Mead are at historically low levels as a drought continues to grip much of the West.
Last year, a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science suggested the region was in the midst of a prolonged megadrought that has lasted for about two decades. It is potentially the most severe megadrought in 1,200 years.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Nevada Public Radio and KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.