Sen. John McCain’s farsighted call for Western governor talks to cooperatively solve Western water shortages could soon bear fruit.
Innovative high-altitude, pumped-storage projects can efficiently solve most of the Western region’s renewable water and energy shortages, caused by explosive growth and highly variable droughts and climate change conditions.
Colorado is fortunate to be the primary headwater state for the Southwestern region on both sides of the Continental Divide.
Advanced computer modeling could verify the unprecedented economic and environmental advantages of high, off-river water and energy storage alternatives within months of a green light from Western governors. Changes to interstate agreements, such as the 1922 Colorado River Compact, would not be required.
Modeling could also confirm that 20 percent renewable energy goals from highly variable wind and solar operations are not economically feasible without integrated pumped hydro and energy storage facilities for peak and off-peak regional water and power needs.
Escalating Western water costs and farm dry-up rates could also be reversed, while optimizing river flows for human and environmental needs.
The National Environmental Policy Act requires objective economic and environmental comparisons of reasonable alternatives when making major water and energy development decisions.
Unfortunately, integrated pumped hydro alternatives that could multiply the productivity of limited Western water and energy sources have not been considered because of institutional inertia.
Western institutions committed to less efficient traditional water and energy development options are violating national environmental laws with their regional pumped-hydro oversights.
John McCain and all Western leaders know that water can be as important as oil in the arid West. His timely call for open discussions should lead to emergency evaluations of overlooked headwater solutions for Western water and energy needs.
David Miller, Palmer Lake