WASHINGTON D.C. - On March 22, World Water Day, national sportsmen and conservation groups applauded a Presidential Memorandum to increase on-the-ground coordination among federal agencies to combat drought and protect water resources.
The groups hailed the memorandum as an important step toward addressing drought in the West and protecting limited water resources, including the Colorado River.
"Today's announcement from the White House knocks down a major barrier to protecting our nation's rivers, especially those in the drought-ridden West, like the mighty Colorado," said Matt Rice, director of the Colorado Basin Program at American Rivers, a prominent river conservation group. "We look forward to working with the Administration to ensure agencies at all levels of government are working together, not at odds with each other, especially on-the-ground in the Colorado River basin."
The Presidential Memorandum, which the Obama Administration announced March 22 during its White House Water Summit, will help with coordination among federal agencies, such as the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, to better utilize their resources to combat the drought and protect vital water resources. The memorandum also called for enhanced data collection, monitoring and sharing to increase communication among states, tribes and local entities.
The announcement came on the heels of months of calls from sportsmen and conservation groups for coordination among federal, state and local agencies to protect the Colorado River and other drought-stricken waterways on-the-ground.
"Sportsmen from across the country come to the Colorado River Basin to enjoy unmatched hunting and fishing, but the precariously low water levels in the Colorado are threatening the wildlife that define our way of life," said Jimmy Hague, director at the Center for Water Resources at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. "This executive action is an important first step in protecting this critical waterway and all the wildlife and recreation that it supports."
Taylor Hawes, director of the Colorado River Program at The Nature Conservancy agreed.
"Today's announcement once again shows this administration's commitment to building drought resilience in the West," he said. "Better coordination across federal agencies is critical to addressing the water supply-demand imbalance in the Colorado River basin in a way that benefits all water users and keeps rivers healthy. In the face of a prolonged drought in the Colorado River basin, this is the right move for improving the resilience of one of America's iconic - and hardest-working -rivers."
According to Sinjin Eberle, Intermountain West Communication director for American Rivers, the Colorado River is the hardest working river in the West, supplying water to more than 36 million people, but demand for water from the Colorado outstrips supply, and the drought and rising temperatures are making the imbalance more precarious. Eberle said the Colorado River system will likely face a shortage if basin-wide conservation steps are not taken soon. In 2015, the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon was named by American Rivers as the number one most endangered river in the U.S.
"Fortunately, the communities in the Colorado River Basin are coming together and collaborating with government at all levels to put into place water conservation and drought resiliency efforts that will protect this vital river and all who rely on it," Eberle said.
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