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CE 214 : 2009-91218 RUIZ, JOSELITA ISABEL R.

In coastal areas, between underground fresh water and seawater there is a transitional
environment which is the salt intrusion. In periods of average water consumption, the demand for water
remains moderate and reservoirs are replenished day and night of the natural water cycle. However,
when demand increases, the volume of water extracted can no longer be replenished. The salt intrusion
approaches dangerously close to catchment points gradually causing irreversible damage to the water
resources and water becomes threatened resource. According to the study of Mohamed T. El-Ashry
entitled Ground-Water Salinity Problems Related to Irrigation in the Colorado River Basin, salinity is the
most serious water quality problem occurring in the Colorado River. The basin has an area of 242,000
square miles2 (approximately 155 million acres) of the western United States and a fraction of Northern
Mexico. Provision of water needs, of about 40 million 3 people in the seven western states of Arizona,
California, Nevada (Lower Division States) and Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming (Upper
Division States), came from Colorado River. Additionally, the Colorado River system is used to irrigate
nearly 5.5 million acres of land4 in the Basin, which contributes billions of dollars a year in the benefit of
agricultural livelihood. The Colorado River is also the lifeblood for at least twenty-two federally
recognized Native American Indian tribes, seven National Wildlife Refuges, four National Recreation
Areas, and eleven National Park units. Hydropower facilities along the Colorado River supply more than
4,200 megawatts of electrical capacity to help meet the power needs of the West and reduce the use of
fossil fuels. Finally, the Colorado River is vital to Mexico, supporting a thriving agricultural industry in the
San Luis and Mexicali Valleys and providing municipal water supplies for communities in the Mexican
States of Sonora and Baja California. Consequently, the irrigated agriculture which is the major human
cause gives 85% - 90% of all water use and 85% salinity is induced by man. The principal salinilty
constituents are sulfates, chlorides, and bicarbonates of calcium, magnesium and sodium. According to
the study, the current damage to water users is estimated at $53 million per year and is prokected to
$125 million per year by 2000 if no salinity controls applied. Relatively, it occurs in the form of reduced
crop yields, change to less economic crops, corrosion, and increased water treatment costs. According to
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 1971 records indicate that excessive amounts of water are
applied to irrigated lands in the Colorado River Basin. When irrigation water is applied, water is lost
through evapotranspiration, surface runoff and deep percolation. Deep percolation losses large
quantities of salts to ground water which again results to salinity problems. This percolation also
transports salt from the consumed water also soluble minerals from the soil and underlying rocks as it
moves to ground water reservoir. It is also stated in the study that between 1960 and 1962 salinity
concentrations in Colorado River water flowing into Mexico virtually doubled (from 800 mg/l to 1500
mg/l). It is due to Welton-Mohawk (Arizona), Irrigation and Drainage district (Loading), in addition with
the closure of Glen Canyon Dam. In most irrigated valleys, lands located near river or adjacent to it,
were the first to be irrigated. This is the reason why water distribution systems were developed to
irrigate lands at higher elevations. In this, when excessive water was applied on the higher elevation the
drainage water from these caused high-water tables and salt problems on the lower lands. For example,
Grand valley which is one of the contributions of ground water salinity of Colorado River. The
composition of the valley is highly saline with an estimated pickup rate of 8 tons per year for each
irrigated acre. It is usually from Mancos Shale formation which is a marine deposit with a very high
percentage of soluble salts. In the conclusion of the study, on-farm management practices, including
improved irrigation efficiency and minimum leaching, are technically feasible and the most economical
solution for controlling salinity in the Colorado River. Water extraction must be reduced and a more
costly alternative resource if available must be used. It is therefore vital to monitor changes in the
quality of the water in underground reservoirs. But each controlling stage requires a costly human
intervention in the field. Controls are expenses and are restricted to a single moment in time and
spaces.
Lately, Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum prepared a review last October 2014 entitled
WATER QUALITY STANDARDS FOR SALINITY COLORADO RIVER SYSTEM. It includes the water quality
standards for salinity for the Colorado River. Section 303 of the Clean Water Act amendments to the
Federal Water Pollution Control Act require that water quality standards be reviewed from time to time,
but at least once during each three-year period. This Review focuses on the 2014 to 2017 period (review
period) and evaluates the appropriateness of the standards. Accordingly, the seven-state Colorado River
Basin Salinity Control Forum has reviewed the existing state-adopted and EPA approved water quality
standards for salinity consisting of numeric criteria and a Plan of Implementation. This Review is
consistent with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved 1975 standards and
deals only with that portion of the Colorado River Basin (Basin) above Imperial Dam.
In addition with this, another issue concerning Colorado River happened. Sandra Postel of
National Geographics Freshwater Initiative in Water Currents on July 30, 2014 wrote about the
groundwater depletion in Colorado River Basin which is an alarming rate for ground water at Western

U.S. and caused water levels at Lake Mead to drop, but a far greater depletion is occurring underground.
Again, problems concerning groundwater are still a continual improvement.
2

Colorado River System, Consumptive Uses and Losses Report, 1996-2000, Bureau of Reclamation.

About 40 million people are estimated to be within the hydrologic boundaries of the Basin in the United States, as well as in the
adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water, by 2015. See Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand
Study - Technical Report C, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 2012.
4

It is estimated that there will be 5.5 million irrigated acres in the hydrologic boundaries of the Basin in the United States, as well as in
the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water, by 2015. See Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand
Study - Technical Report C, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 2012.