Down to Earth

Lake Powell and Lake Mead are two massive man-made lakes, and they’re reservoirs for water used all over the West–for agriculture, residences, industry, electricity, and wildlife. And they’re running low on water–we’re taking out more than they’re being replenished. Brian Richter, president of Sustainable Waters, and author of the book, Chasing Water: A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability, talks about the roots of the problem, and what we can do about it.

Brian Richter photo © Erika Nortemann/TNC
Lake Powell photo by Photo by Danika Perkinson on Unsplash

1’15 background on Lake Powell and Lake Mead
2’37 what the water is used for–and by whom
3’49 why water consumption continues to rise in the West
5’44 living off of debt–water debt
7’21 the effect of climate change on the Colorado River
9’21 how Brian got into studying water
10’43 what the Colorado River was like before it was dammed
15’10 teaching students to calculate their direct, and indirect, water footprint
17’01 forecast for Colorado River flow is very low this year — why
18’16 dangers of “flash droughts”
19’26 threat to hydroelectric power
22’23 how to save large amounts of water–and refill Lakes Powell and Mead
23’00 cities have gotten very good at water conservation
24’10 much Colorado River agriculture water is used to grow cattle feed
24’55 how to incentivize farmers to use less water
25’42 rotational fallowing
26’23. this is compatible with the transition to organic agriculture
27’30 implications for the food supply
29’48 would grass-finished beef address the water problem?
31’17 how much of a difference healthy soils practices can make
31’46 need more research on soil health and carbon sequestration
32’27 the value of cover crops
33’24 the history–and problem–of water rights in the west
35’47 water rights holders should be able to return water to the river or lease to other users
37’42 how do states work together — multiple states, one river
39’43 how political polarization from Washington affects water issues in the West
42’08 the importance of the federal government
43’53 arresting the decline of the lakes
44’39 we need to reduce water use by 1/4 to 1/3
46’32 urban rural relationships and sharing responsibility
49’50 problems of crop agriculture also
52’26 vision for a sustainable water future
53’36 water and equity
54’31 water for people and for wildlife
56’13 how the pandemic is affecting the conversation about water
57’08 things have to get really bad before people do anything