Of the many challenges we face in the Colorado River Basin, salinity and selenium may be the biggest water quality issues we face in the Colorado River Basin and they continue to pose significant threats to long term water availability to well over 30 million people in two countries. The basin also provides irrigation water for more than 3.5 million acres of farmland within the basin and hundreds of thousands of acres outside the basin.
Too much of a good thing:
Salt is a natural element of soils and water. However, human practices have dramatically increased salinity in soils and source waters.
The consequences of salinity include:
Detrimental effects on plant growth & crop yield
Damage to infrastructure (corrosion, decreased life expectancy)
Reduction of water quality
Taste & odor concerns
More efficient irrigation management can decrease problems related to mobilizing salts and trace elements. As water efficiency increases, less deep percolation occurs, return flows decrease, and less salts reach the river. Natural source control such as capture & disposal through deep well injection and/or evaporation can be effective solutions.
Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program:
This coalition of federal agencies and Colorado Basin States have implemented salinity control projects that have eliminated close to a million tons of salt per year from entering the Colorado River. It is estimated that these salt reduction efforts reduce economic damages by about $100 million/year.
What is needed:
Continued funding to construct, operate and maintain salinity control projects that will continue to reduce the salt load. Increased efforts to educate water user and other program and the resulting benefits. A long term commitment by all the Program partners to control salinity to ensure the sustainability of the Colorado River.