Salinity FAQs

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The Colorado River Salinity Basin States Parallel Program has been administered in Colorado through the Colorado State Conservation Board (CSCB) since 1998. An agreement was signed between the CSCB in February of that year to deliver the program through local conservation districts in Colorado. The Western Slope office of the CSCB, located in Grand Junction, serves as the coordination point for Colorado's program participation. Ongoing agreements, renewed annually, are in place with five Conservation Districts to manage and deliver the program locally. Technical assistance is provided through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field offices and by employees hired by local Conservation Districts as part of the funding agreement between NRCS, CSCB, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

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Five western Colorado Conservation Districts, located in Grand Junction, Delta, Montrose, Mancos, and Cortez; together with local NRCS staff provide technical assistance, support, and supervision for approved salinity projects.

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Since the beginning of the program in 1998, more than 100 projects have been completed with cost share funding of just under $3 million. In 2005, more than $3.4 million was paid to landowners in cost share dollars. Currently we have 172 active contracts among the 5 conservation districts.

A.

The Colorado River drains 246,000 square miles (approximately 157 million acres) of the western United States and Mexico while providing water to some 7.5 million people within its own basin and supplies wholly or in part the water needs of an additional 25.4 million people outside the basin through trans-basin diversions.

The United States Government and the seven basin states have long recognized the importance of the river and its tributaries to the survival of the region. From the headwater states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico, to its terminus in the Gulf of California, the river's water increases in salinity.

It is estimated that the river carries an average salt load of nine million tons annually.

In 1972 the Clean Water Act mandated efforts to maintain water quality standards in the United States. During the same time Mexico and the United States were discussing the increasing salinity of the Colorado River and the economic and environmental impacts the added salinity was having on downstream users. In 1973 the seven Basin states formed the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum and directed it to control salt contributions to the river from manmade sources as a condition for continued development of compact-apportioned water.

In 1998 an agreement was signed by the US Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado River Basin Salinity Forum to provide funds to cost share with water users in the upper basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah that would parallel the federal USDA's efforts to reduce salt contributions to the river from irrigation.