ken_salazarCalifornia's water supplies may be looking good this year, but the future is never certain. That's the message from U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco  this week.

Salazar described how the federal government will help the state keep rivers healthy and balance the water needs of humans and ecosystems. However, Molly Mugglestone, project coordinator for the group Protect the Flows, says recreation and tourism should be a part of the discussion. The group includes businesses which operate along the portion of the Colorado River that flows through California.

"So what we're asking for is that that actually happens - that recreation and tourism become an actual quantitatively studied measure of how we use the water in the future."

Protecting the flows in the Colorado River will keep revenue flowing into local economies, she says, as well as protect fish, wildlife, and their habitats.

protect-the-flows-program-logoThe Bureau of Reclamation is conducting a study to look at the supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin, which provides water to 30 million people including those in Los Angeles, which is ranked No. 1 in cities running out of water.

Mugglestone says Protect the Flows is also concerned about how conservation efforts can be implemented in the federal supply-and-demand study.

"The Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Interior are talking about that, and there's some great progress that has been made in the cities and municipalities that are using the water and looking at the study, but we would just add (that) the conservation piece does need to be a big part of the future discussions about water."

The Colorado River Delta, extending from just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, is mostly dried up, Mugglestone says, because heavy upstream diversions consistently have stopped the river from reaching the Gulf of California. Yet, it is home to the most important wetland habitat in North America's Southwest desert, boasting more than 350 bird species.

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