Water Quality Issues
A Matter of Quantity, Quality and Use
Of the many challenges we face in the Colorado River Basin, salinity and selenium may be the biggest water quality issues we face in the Colorado River Basin and they continue to pose significant threats to long term water availability to well over 30 million people in two countries. The basin also provides irrigation water for more than 3.5 million acres of farmland within the basin and hundreds of thousands of acres outside the basin.
Too much of a good thing:
Salt is a natural element of soils and water.
However, human practices have dramatically increased salinity in soils and source waters.
The consequences of salinity include:
- Detrimental effects on plant growth & crop yield
- Damage to infrastructure (corrosion, decreased life expectancy)
- Reduction of water quality
- Taste & odor concerns
More efficient irrigation management can decrease problems related to mobilizing salts and trace elements. As water efficiency increases, less deep percolation occurs, return flows decrease, and less salts reach the river. Natural source control such as capture & disposal through deep well injection and/or evaporation can be effective solutions.
This coalition of federal agencies and Colorado Basin States have implemented salinity control projects that have eliminated close to a million tons of salt per year from entering the Colorado River. It is estimated that these salt reduction efforts reduce economic damages by about $100 million/year. What is needed:
to construct, operate and maintain salinity control projects that will continue to reduce the salt load. Increased efforts to educate
water users and other beneficiaries about the salinity control program and the resulting benefits. A long term commitment
by all the Program partners to control salinity to ensure the sustainability of the Colorado River.
For more information contact David Kanzer at email@example.com.
Upper Colorado River Basin Tour
Nearly 40 water professionals including board directors and staff of several Southern California water agencies participated in an Upper Colorado River Basin tour focusing on Colorado River salinity issues on June 28-30, 2006.
The impairment of salinity is a major concern for water users in the upper and lower Colorado River Basins. High levels of salinity affect agricultural, municipal and industrial users. The cost of damages in the seven Colorado River Basin States is estimated by the USBR to be nearly $300 million per year. Colorado River District Board President Bill Trampe, greets tour participants at a gathering along the banks of the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs.
As surface and groundwater becomes more scarce, salinity impairments will occur with greater frequency and magnitude. Continued education and cooperation among water managers can foster more innovative approaches to reducing the amount of salt load from entering the rivers and degrading water quality. Colorado River Board of California Chairman Bart Fisher expresses gratitude to Colorado River District for their hospitality. Eric Kuhn, General Manager, Colorado River District, discusses sources and issues relate to Colorado River salinity during his remarks.
Tour highlights included viewing the Upper Colorado River watershed (including the Blue and Eagle subbasins) along I-70, learning about the impacts of transmountain diversions, discussing the salinity control program measures in the Grand Valley, observing endangered fish ladder operations and visiting Orchard Mesa Irrigation District facility and related water conservation and agricultural practices.
Presentations on selenium issues in the lower Gunnison River were given by the USGS, a center pivot irrigation system was visited and an important salinity control project (deep injection well system) near Bedrock, CO was toured.