Will our rivers survive?

In an era of global warming and urban growth, we asked top water experts if the West's rivers can still fill our faucets, water our gardens, and grow our crops


Hamlet "Chips" Barry, manager, Denver Water
Peter Gleick, president, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security, Oakland
Peter Grubb, founder and president, Row Adventures, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Bruce Hallin, manager, Water Business Development, Salt River Project, Phoenix
Amy Souers Kober, Northwest communications director, American Rivers, Seattle
Patricia Mulroy, general manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority

Much of the news we hear about Western rivers is dire: droughts in California and the Southwest, Western cities potentially running out of water, the uncertain impacts of climate change and continued population growth. So, today, how are our Western rivers doing?

Patricia Mulroy We're the canary in the mine shaft. When I look at the Colorado River, I know that by 2010, Hoover Dam could potentially not generate electricity. That Lake Mead is down - 90 percent of Las Vegas' drinking water comes from there. What do you do?

What about global warming? What are its impacts on Western rivers and water?

Mulroy Profound. The toolbox we've used for the last 100 years is not going to work.

Chips Barry The important component is what nobody can answer - what does global warming do to the volume and timing of precipitation? Nobody knows.

Peter Gleick We know a lot more about climate change than we used to. We know with a very high degree of confidence, for example, that in California, we're going to see a dramatic change in the timing of runoff. The future is not going to look like the past.