The Associated Press recently reported that a Federal appellate court may overturn the landmark 2003 accord that divvies up Colorado River water. The accord determines how much of the rivers’ water goes to users in seven Western States, including California. At the center of the dispute is whether water that had been traditionally used by Imperial Valley farmers must be sold to urban dwellers in coastal San Diego, and what that exchange means for the potential recovery and long-term stability of the Salton Sea.
While the issues involved here are legally and environmentally complex, they all point to the larger reality facing water users throughout the world: our supply of fresh water is limited, and the demands on it are many. Whatever the court decides with regard to the Colorado River accord, its tenets may not hold in the coming decades regardless. The combination of a booming global population (and the food and fiber demands that accompany that growth) and climate change will lead to a certain outcome. All water users, whether urban dwellers or farmers, will have to learn to do more with less.