Freshwater Sustainability

Freshwater Sustainability

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The questions for this week are all associated with your reading in the New Yorker (Where the River Runs Dry by David Owen).

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/25/the-disappearing-river

1. The Colorado River supports many unique communities of plants and animals that depend on the annual flow of water within the banks of the mainstem river. However, humans also depend on the river as well. List 4 ways that humans utilize the Colorado River?

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2. As with many rivers around the world, the Colorado River is over-allocated which means the states within the basin are legally allowed to take more gallons of water than actually exist in the river. Hypothesize as to why rivers become over-allocated given that the repercussions of such miscalculations result in expensive legal battles or, in some cases, military conflicts.

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3. On the Colorado River, numerous large-scale reservoirs have been constructed that provide both power and freshwater to people/farmers within the basin. However, millions of gallons are lost via evaporation because each reservoir has a great deal of surface area and, particularly in the lower basin, it gets very hot. Consequently, do you think it is more ethical to have reservoirs in colder climate river basins where evaporation rates are lower in contrast to warmer climate river basins? Keep in mind that in many warmer parts of the world, numerous human populations do not have the financial ability nor the social desire to move away from their homes to more temperate climates and they still need freshwater resources that are often provided by reservoirs.

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4. The article discusses how increasing agricultural efficiency can actually have negative consequences for water conservation within a basin. Please explain why this is true in your own words using an example from the article.

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5. If you buy some produce from QFC that comes from Southern California, you are directly connected to the water budget of the Colorado River Basin. A substantial amount of water is diverted from the Colorado river to agricultural fields hundreds of miles away from the rivers natural path. If we wanted to reduce our impact on the Colorado River Basin ecosystem (restoring ecosystem function AND allowing the river to flow naturally into Mexico as we agreed to do over 40 years ago), what are three specific things you can do to influence the water budget of that area? Explain.

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