Working Together for a Healthier Colorado River Basin
For millions across the West, the Colorado River is life. This magnificent river and its tributaries supply drinking water to communities big and small, keep thousands of ranches and farms in business and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife. But the Colorado is a river at risk.
Water in the West is a series of stories about the people working to address threats to water supply in the Colorado River Basin and find conservation solutions that make economic sense for people and communities. The Walton Family Foundation is working with partners throughout the basin, in the U.S. and Mexico, to ensure healthy rivers by restoring riparian areas, encouraging water efficiency and pursuing flexible, market-based solutions that improve water management.
Because water is such a precious commodity here, ranchers like Freddie have traditionally left their headgates open late into the fall, even when stream flows are low, to use every drop of water under their allotment.
But the water crisis that has enveloped the Colorado River basin has prompted a bold re-evaluation of the way water is used and sparked creative conservation efforts throughout the region.
The Escalante is that rare jewel in the American West – a free-flowing river so remote it wasn’t even mapped until the late 19th century. It’s also a river threatened by an unwanted invader – Russian olive, a woody invasive that crowds the riverbank, competing with and squeezing out native habitat.
Over the years, Sue watched as Russian olive, “one plant at a time,” took over hundreds of miles of riparian habitat on the Escalante and its tributaries.
As director of Trout Unlimited’s western water and habitat program, Scott builds partnerships with private landowners to find creative ways to reduce demand for water in the arid Colorado River basin.
The search for innovative ideas is driven by fears of future water shortages – and conflicts – in a region where a rapidly growing population, extended drought and changing weather are all combining to threaten supply.
In the two decades Mike has been rafting and kayaking the rivers of the American West, he has witnessed an unsightly transformation of the riparian landscapes.
Lush riverbanks once lined with cottonwoods, willows and box elders were overtaken by thickets of tamarisk so dense they blocked all view of the land beyond water’s edge. Sandy beaches where he would once pull in to camp became inaccessible as groves of the woody invasive crowded shorelines. Rivers dominated by tamarisk become impenetrable.
As originally published by The Walton Family Foundation, January 2018
Original URL: https://blog.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/2018/january/reclaiming-native-habitat-one-mile-at-a-time