Colorado River official says politics of climate-change debate impeding work

Despite a flood of recent evidence that drought is endangering the Colorado River and all of the communities from Colorado to California that depend on its unimpeded flow, the Aspen Daily News reports climate-change doubters are still clouding the debate over proper management of the Southwest’s most critical water supply.

Speaking at Aspen Global Change Institute workshop Tuesday, Dr. Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, said public perceptions about global climate change are making it difficult to come to informed consensus on how best to manage future water resources.

Citing a study by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and other recent reports, Kuhn said the evidence is pretty solid that shrinking snowpack and earlier spring runoff will mean less water in the Colorado River in coming years, but still the climate-change debate remains a major management hurdle.

“It is simple and very straightforward,” Kuhn said, according to the Daily News. “You think we should be able to do something based on the advice, but we are not quite there.”

Kuhn pointed to a six-month-old survey done by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization that showed Colorado residents are split 47 percent to 47 percent on this question: “Is climate change an established reality or an unproven myth?”

In Wyoming, the survey found only 35 percent of people think climate change is a reality, while 62 percent of Californians think so, and 74 percent of Democrats surveyed in a seven-state area think it’s a reality, compared to just 25 percent of Republicans.

Other studies have found increased energy production in the Southwest will put even more stress on the Colorado River – another topic that tends to break on political lines.

Kuhn, according to the Daily News, said his position is apolitical, but that the division is a serious hurdle to dealing with very real problems and needs to be openly discussed in order to start achieving consensus.

“There may be in some communities like Aspen or Glenwood Springs, where I live, but there is not [consensus] in places like Grand Junction. There still is a political divide. And if we don’t talk about it, we won’t bridge that political divide,” Kuhn said.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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