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Protecting the Lifeline of the West

How Climate and Clean Energy Policies Can Safeguard Water

Lifeline Report cover

Good Climate Policy is Good Water Policy

  • Thermoelectric power plants in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah consumed an estimated 292 million gallons of water a day (MGD) in 2005 - approximately equal to the water consumed by Denver, Phoenix, and Albuquerque, combined.

  • In the Colorado River Basin, climate change issues could not be more pressing. The river supplies water to over 30 million people and 1.4 million acres of farmland, but an 11-year drought in the basin has left the two main reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, at only 55% of their total capacity.

  • Since it started its water conservation program in 1994, Albuquerque's water utility has saved over 136 billion gallons of water and over 1 million tons of carbon dioxide.

  • Xcel Energy has invested heavily in wind power - it now has over 1200 MW of wind power on the ground in Colorado, which saves - each year - approximately 1.6 billion gallons of water.

Water is the lifeline of the West, and is essential to sustaining our people, economy, rivers, and wildlife. But climate pollution threatens the West’s already tight water supplies, and will exacerbate the challenge of meeting urban, agricultural, and environmental water needs. Federal legislation that limits greenhouse gas emissions will not only diminish the specter of a drier future, it can provide a new water supply to the parched West by freeing the vast quantities of water currently consumed by dirty forms of energy.

A new report by Western Resource Advocates and Environmental Defense Fund, "Protecting the Lifeline of the West: How Climate and Energy Policies Can Safeguard Water", illustrates why legislation is needed to curtail the risk unmitigated climate change poses to western water supplies and highlights the inextricable links between energy and water in the region.

The ProblemChanges in runoff

The Solutionirrigated agriculture

The Report:

The report highlights case studies of innovative solutions westerners are pioneering today – strategies that help us meet our growing water and energy demands, while protecting western communities and the environment. These case studies prove that climate change solutions can work. The report calls for a national climate policy to strengthen these efforts and accelerate the transition to a climate-friendly, energy- and water-smart economy.