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DENVER -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton says dams need to
be expanded or new ones built along Colorado's Front Range and in
other Western urban centers to avoid a water crisis.
The crisis could hit by 2025 because of the region's growing
population, Norton told the Rocky Mountain News.
``Everything that we saw in last year's hot, dry summer season
when we had a record drought we are concerned that we may see in an
average year if we don't take steps now,'' she said.
An Interior Department survey said the following areas could
experience water crises in a couple decades: the Front Range between
Fort Collins and Pueblo, Las Vegas, Reno, Nev., Albuquerque, N.M.,
Houston, Salt Lake City and Flagstaff, Ariz.
The Bureau of Reclamation identified the areas by looking at
population trends, historic rainfall, water storage and the habitats
of endangered species.
Norton said the priority is expanding existing dams, and then, if
necessary, building new ones.
``There is an assumption that big dams would result,'' said
Norton, Colorado's former attorney general. ``But there is a
tremendous opportunity to explore other options.''
The Colorado General Assembly is considering a bill that would ask
voters in November to approve up to $2 billion in revenue bonds for
Estimates on the yield for raising Colorado dams, including
Chatfield and Cherry Creek, and enlarging reservoirs, such as Pueblo,
range from 200,000 acre feet to nearly 1 million acre feet, enough
for 200,000 to 1 million new homes.
``If we can cooperate with the federal government on a program, it
would enhance our ability to develop more storage,'' said Rod
Kuharick, chief engineer at the state's Water Conservation Board.
Norton said President Bush's budget seeks an initial investment of
$11 million for improving existing storage, research, conservation
and other initiatives.
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