Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently announced that the agency would continue to consider the potential effects of commercial oil shale development on the limited water supplies of the arid West.
This common-sense caution is good news for the Colorado River, which supplies water to Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming (three states where oil shale reserves are located) as well as four other downstream states. It is the drinking water source for 30 million people, and supports downstream agriculture production. It is estimated that over 90% of the vegetables eaten by Americans in the winter months come from farms dependent on this river. Clearly, it is critical that we collaborate to sustain this river.
One of these, climate change, is the subject of a basin-wide study by Interior and the states to understand how to meet future water demands and ensure we can keep water in the river for the environment, as well as our agricultural, rural and urban development needs. Importantly, the administration this week announced its intention to continue funding the study -- a demonstration of Ken Salazar's commitment to protecting the ecological well-being of the Colorado River.
Other issues are still affecting this river, including the risks associated with oil and gas development. Chemicals released during the gas production in the Colorado drainage basin are still a major problem. These chemicals pumped into gas wells during the drilling process and later in the production phase of the wells have gone unchecked since the Clean Water Act was amended in 2005 -- allowing the oil and gas industry to pump millions of gallons of toxins into our groundwater and streams that ultimately flow into rivers such as the Colorado.
Ken Salazar is perhaps the last person in government willing to fight for the preservation of this grand and mighty river. Contact the Department of the Interior and thank the secretary for working to preserve our water supply.