The future of the American West depends on water – on having enough of this scarce resource to sustain the region’s growing population and maintain a healthy environment.
In the face of extreme droughts in the Colorado River Basin, the threat of water shortages is real and immediate. And the need to find solutions so people and nature can thrive together has never been more urgent.
Even as climate change portends a hotter, drier future for the Colorado River, we believe there are practical reasons to be hopeful and take action to protect the region’s water.
When the seven Colorado River Basin states signed a historic drought plan two years ago, they sealed a conservation victory to manage the water supply, and end chronic overuse of the river. A separate agreement between the U.S. and Mexico ensures additional water efficiency while also providing water explicitly for the river and habitat restoration.
The Walton Family Foundation supported both of those agreements and we will continue to support water conservation measures that help us all find a pathway through coming water shortages.
By working with nature, rather than against it, we can build healthier watersheds with improved flows that help us adapt to climate change.
In the foundation’s new five-year Environment program strategy, we will increase our efforts to get more water into the Colorado River and its tributaries by supporting natural infrastructure projects throughout the basin. By working with nature, rather than against it, we can build healthier watersheds with improved flows that help us adapt to climate change.
To confront the challenges facing the Colorado River, we will increase engagement with communities across the region – including ranchers, tribal leaders, and local communities – to improve the health of nature and create long-term, collaborative plans for smart water management.
We’re also working with partners looking for ways to increase the use of nature-based solutions and innovative practices that use less water and leave more water in the river. We see progress in places like Arizona’s Verde River, a Colorado River tributary, where farmers are shifting production from water-intensive crops like alfalfa and finding new markets for barley, which requires less water and improves river flows.
Because we believe those closest to the water challenges in the Colorado River Basin are closest to the solution, we’re working more intentionally with community organizations and increasing outreach to diverse constituencies who deserve a greater voice in water management decisions that impact them.
It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. There are no easy solutions to the water challenges now gripping parts of the West. But we believe the urgency of this moment can be a catalyst for creativity and collaboration that ensures a secure and stable water future for the region.