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New Coalition Launched to Protect Colorado River Headwaters

Epic Drought and Dirty Energy Boom Spotlight Fragility of Water Supply in American Southwest

October 15, 2014

Media Contacts:

Zach Frankel, Utah Rivers Council: [email protected] / 801­699­1856
John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper: [email protected] / 435­260­2590
Tim Wagner, Utah Physicians for the Environment: [email protected] / 801­502­5450
Dan Mayhew, Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club: [email protected] / 801­712­5353
Pete Nichols, Waterkeeper Alliance: [email protected] / 707­845­0832

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — A coalition of groups from across the West today announced the formation of a new coalition to inform and engage communities in California, Nevada, Arizona, and other western states about threats posed to the Colorado River and their water supply.

Colorado River Connected (www.coloradoriverconnected.org) was formed to protect the headwaters of the Colorado River system for the benefit of the 35 million people and thousands of species and natural communities that rely upon it. Currently, the coalition includes Colorado Riverkeeper, Utah Rivers United, Sierra Club, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Glen Canyon Institute, Save the Colorado, and Waterkeeper Alliance. The coalition is inviting hundreds of watershed and community groups to this effort to protect and stand up for a healthy Colorado River.

The Colorado River originates in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, which is the source of drinking water for millions of people in cities including Las Vegas, Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego. However, the river is threatened by unprecedented dirty energy development, voracious water diversions, and climate change.

Climate scientists have acknowledged for decades that the Southwest will suffer more than many areas of the U.S. as a changing climate lowers snowpack and increases

temperatures. In recent years, the Southwest has been gripped by a significant drought, although most residents of California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico are not aware of proposed water diversions upstream that are being pursued alongside an increase in pollution­generating energy development from tar sands, fracking, and oil shale.

Colorado River Connected is working to engage and activate residents living in downstream urban areas to raise a collective, basinwide voice to prevent devastating projects that will further drain and pollute the Colorado Basin.

“This drought has shown that residents in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Southern California are likely to be heavily impacted by new water diversions proposed upstream, like Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline,” said Zach Frankel, Executive Director of the Utah Rivers Council. “That’s enough water for nearly one million people’s use for a year and it’s going to impact everything and everyone downstream,” said Frankel.

Thousands of proposed new oil and gas wells are likely to pollute precious water supplies.

“Whether you’re a San Diego mom, a Tucson water manager, or a Las Vegas doctor, if you’re drinking water from the Colorado River, you better pay attention to what is going on in Utah and Colorado,” said Tim Wagner, Executive Director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “Between an explosion in fracking for gas and oil, and Utah’s love affair with tar sands and oil shale, the Southwest’s water supply is threatened like never before.”

Colorado River Connected aims to bring the citizens of the basin together to speak with a unified voice for communities who rely on Colorado River water, and to push back against states like Utah and Colorado that are only looking at the Colorado River for continued development and dirty energy projects. Colorado River Connected will press for changes in water management and seek policies that acknowledge and address these threats for the good of residents and the Colorado River Watershed.

“Between unparalleled dirty energy development and multiple plans for major water diversions, Utah and the upper basin states are demonstrating total disregard for cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas that depend on Colorado River water for their survival,” said Dan Mayhew, Chair of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It’s time downstream users became fully aware of the magnitude of these threats and take action before it’s too late.”

“The issues facing the Colorado River Basin are as vast as the watershed itself,” said Pete Nichols, National Director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “We are excited that Colorado River Connected will be bringing people together from the entire region to heighten awareness and speak with one voice for the river, their communities, and the watershed,” said Nichols.

“Since the dedication of Hoover Dam in 1935, the Colorado River has been the leading model for water governance worldwide. This 80­year experiment is about to fail and shortages are eminent because developers continue to plan for water intensive projects without any regard to the watershed’s natural heritage, or the public trust. If concerned citizens don’t unite and turn this pattern of unbridled consumption around, a watershed train wreck will indeed occur,” said John Weisheit, Conservation Director of Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper.

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO JOIN THE COALITION VISIT:

www.coloradoriverconnected.org

Follow us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/coloradoriverconnected

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