Opportunities For Technological Interventions And Climate Science Applications

The three major elements of western states' water future are (1) conservation and demand management, (2) municipal-agricultural cooperation, and (3) supply integration. Conservation and demand management approaches range from technology interventions for specific problems to regional water basin planning, including mandatory, voluntary, and incentive-based approaches (Luecke et al., 2003). The innovations described above (the AWBA/AWS/CAGRD, BECC, the QSA settlement) are based in water management planning and provide institutional mechanisms to reduce vulnerability to drought, potentially limiting the economic impact of shortfalls in Colorado River deliveries.

Gleick (2003) describes the rise of "soft path" approaches that complement physical infrastructure with lower cost community-scale systems, decentralized and open decision making, water markets where actually needed, equitable pricing, application of efficient technology, and environmental protection. Given the lack of sites left for new dams on the Colorado and the economic and environmental costs associated with dams, soft path approaches are widely viewed as viable alternatives to supply enhancement. The Council of State Governments (2003) in a recent report identified several such "soft path" mechanisms being employed to different degrees to combat overuse. These include pricing structures to promote water use efficiency; measurement of water usage; audits of commercial, domestic, and industrial uses; water reuse and recycling; management of water system pressure; retrofitting and replacement of water fixtures; promotion of water-efficient appliances; improving infrastructure quality; conservation; and conservation education. As Gleick et al. (2002) showed, increased economic growth does not always require increased water development, but trends in management still reflect this traditional belief. In addition, there is mounting evidence that in the fastest-growing regions of the West, increased storage (in the absence of a full investigation of water supply reliability during drought) simply encourages increased development during times of plenty as opposed to acting as a buffer for drought (Luecke et al., 2003; Pulwarty, 2003).

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