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Mountain News: Many mountain towns wet like a river current



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Sun Valley mayor wants gun training

SUN VALLEY, Idaho - The mayor of Sun Valley has encouraged city staff members to take a handgun safety course. Wayne Willich, the mayor, told the Idaho Mountain Express he isn't encouraging people to own or carry weapons. Rather, he seems to want them to set an example. As is, the Blaine County Sheriff's Office has issued permits for 1,500 people to carry concealed weapons.

Colorado grapples with potential water shortage

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. - The drought of the early 21st century continues to reverberate in places like Summit County, where the usually placid blue waters of Dillon Reservoir were replaced in 2002 by broad expanses of brown sand and mud.

The skimpy runoff from that drought year, along with subsequent low-snow and unusually hot years left Utah's Lake Powell, farther down on the Colorado River, no more than a third full. Had the drought continued in its great severity, the reservoir might well have been left with what is called a dead pool, not enough water to be released downstream to Arizona, California and Nevada.

That would have created a ticklish situation. The 1922 Colorado River Compact, which apportions water in the basin among the seven states, requires the four upper-basin states -- Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico - deliver 7.5 million acre-feet of water annually based on a 10-year rolling average to the lower basin states.

That figure was derived in error. The framers of the compact assumed more water in the Colorado River than what has actually been the case. Moreover, climate change seems sure to limit flows even more.

In that case, what if there is insufficient water in the upper basin to make that legally mandated commitment to Arizona, Nevada and California and still meet existing needs?

In Colorado, water officials have begun coming up with Plan B and Plan C. One such idea, reports the Summit Daily News, is creation of a "water bank." This bank would hold water rights senior to the 1922 compact - mostly held now by farms and ranches -to be allocated in such a water-short time to keep the economy going. Two water conservation districts responsible for water matters on Colorado's Western Slope, where nearly all of Colorado's ski areas are located, have been putting together the plan.

Such a call would not only impact many ski towns, but also the array of cities located on the Great Plains at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The Daily News reports that the Colorado River and its tributaries provide between 25 to 75 percent of the total water supplies for those cities, which include Denver and Colorado Springs.