U.S. Water News Online
DENVER -- Water experts attending a national conference in
Denver say more than 75 percent of the regions in the American West
still are deep in a drought.
And no one knows how long it will last.
``The truth is, none of us knows when this thing is going to
break,'' said Don Wilhite, director of the National Drought
Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., ``This may go on for quite a
His comments came at a federal conference in Denver on how to
develop better forecasting, conservation and monitoring tools to
reduce future drought-triggered water disasters in the parched
western United States.
During 2003, the drought in Colorado eased, largely because of an
average winter snowpack and a huge blizzard in March that
single-handedly brought precipitation levels up to normal along areas
of the Front Range.
But still large chunks of the state are considered in drought
ranging from moderate to extreme.
The conference, Water 2025, was part of a federal initiative
launched by Interior Secretary Gale Norton in June. So far, more than
3,000 people have gathered at nine conferences to identify ways to
better manage and share the West's water supplies.
Bennett Raley, an assistant secretary of the interior, urged
scientists to work on solutions because more and more the conflicts
erupt even before a drought.
``Increasingly, because of explosive population growth, we're
going to see conflict in normal water years unless we do something,''
One of the concerns discussed was a forecast from the U.S.
Geological Survey that temperatures could rise an average of 5.4
degrees by as early as 2025. That would change the spring runoff from
the mountains, affecting supplies, evaporation, stream flow and
temperatures and fish health.
``I'm reasonably optimistic,'' said Michael Cohen, a senior
analyst with the nonpartisan Pacific Institute. ``At least people are
getting together and talking. But everything we're seeing here today
is focused on the supply side -- not conservation. We need to focus
more on conservation.''
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