Rally on the River: Helping to Save the Mighty Colorado

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – December 6, 2013 – Comment

“Don’t underestimate the way in which you can influence what is going to happen, because at its core, water is the ultimate resource. It’s a commodity, but it could become a luxury.”

This fall, it was my privilege to participate in the Business of Water Corporate Leaders Summit and hear this inspiring statement from Colorado Senator, Mark Udall. The summit, hosted by Protect the Flows, gathered more than 30 business leaders to share innovations and strategies for better water management in hopes of turning the tide of the immense challenges surrounding the Colorado River and threating the $26 billion dollar impact it has on the western economy.

It was a humbling experience to hear over and again, and in such profound ways, that this mighty river – the one everyone learns about in grade school history, the river that forged the wondrous Grand Canyon, the life-stream of the entire western U.S. and Mexico, the irrigator of 5.5 million acres of crops – is facing a very real threat of destruction. If the current patterns of population growth, drought and increasing demand continue, the needs being placed on the Colorado will outpace its ability to supply by 2060. In other words, at it stands now, the 1,450-mile Colorado River that has existed for tens-of-millions of years is unsustainable.

But the experience was also extremely empowering. As Senator Udall said, “Don’t underestimate the way in which you can influence what is going to happen.” Yes, at the time he was talking to the business leaders gathered, but as the Summit also addressed, the influence is in the hands of everyone. I was energized to hear how major corporations are making changes and looking for even better advances. And when it came time for me to share information on innovations that could contribute to the solution, I proudly explained the technology we’ve used to help reduce water consumption by 20% per customer over the past two decades.

There are so many lessons I took away from the Summit. But I will share just three I feel are most important with you now. First, while we all in our own ways recognize the need for responsible water use, very few probably ever think not acting on this knowledge could have such enormous repercussions. It bears repeating, we are looking at the destruction of the Colorado River. The commodity generations have taken for granted is looking at the reality of ceasing to exist.

Secondly, whether you are a small cattle farmer on a few acres, a water utility, or a huge international corporation… a national policy leader or an influencer in a small-town community… everyone has a responsibility – and every can make an impact.

Finally, because awareness is growing, the solutions are getting better, and the willingness to work together continues to grow stronger – there is much optimism in the Colorado River scenario, as well as the water threats in communities around the world.