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Winter 2015-2016

A project of the Water Education Foundation

Private Investment and Public Dollars: Paying for Colorado River Water

By Gary Pitzer

Putting the Colorado River to use for people may be one of the most expensive water projects ever, with an accumulated cost that is perhaps incalculable. Add the investments made to benefit the environ- ment and the sum elevates further. Beyond adapting to the river’s chang- ing conditions lies the true constant: ensuring its beneficial use to people and the environment takes constant invest- ment. “Developing water supply resiliency,

you need four things to stand on,” said Chuck Cullom, Colorado River Pro- grams Manager for the Central Arizona Project (CAP). “Water, operational efficiency, infrastructure and funding.” Cullom moderated a panel discuss- ing financial innovations Sept. 17 at the Water Education Foundation’s Colorado River Symposium in Santa Fe, N.M. Appreciating the scale of the Colorado River Basin – an area draining

246,000 square miles – provides a glimpse into the enormity of the associ- ated economic impact. More than 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico depend on the river for their water supply. Federal investments built much of the early infrastructure. Today, money is channeled to improvement projects through venues such as the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART (Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow) initiative, which focuses on water conservation and sustainability, and the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program.

Te seven Colorado River Basin states and their respective local agencies, such as Denver Water, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), CAP and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have all contributed a sub- stantial sum toward water infrastructure through the years.

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New intake into Lake Mead built by SNWA

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