Program Profile: Water
Water, or more often, the lack thereof, is a defining feature of the landscapes, history, and culture of the West. Water scarcity means intelligent use of this essential resource is critical to a sustainable future. WRA focuses on four areas of activity: conserving urban water supplies, restoring rivers throughout the West, protecting Utah’s Great Salt Lake, and encouraging energy solutions — such as wind and forms of solar power — that have little or no consumptive impact on water resources.
Promoting Water Conservation
Our Smart Water Project successfully promotes increased urban water conservation and identifies alternative sources of supply to meet future demand all across our region. We keep water in the West’s rivers, lakes, and aquifers by working with governments and water providers to implement common-sense strategies, such as tiered water rate structures, smart land-use planning, landscape regulations, and re-use of existing supplies.
Protecting the West’s Rivers
We believe it is vital to preserve and restore the beauty, ecology, native fish, recreation, and economic benefit of rivers throughout the West — from the Green and Cache la Poudre rivers to the Gunnison and Colorado rivers.
Energy and water are entwined, as use of one resource results in consumption of the other. Our Energy-Water Nexus project highlights the energy demands and carbon footprint of water projects, such as dams and pipelines, as well as the water demands that result from our energy choices. Our research and studies guide decision makers across the region to make informed choices to use water and energy in a sustainable manner.
Program Profile: Lands
The stunning landscapes of the West are legendary, cherished by residents and visitors alike. Yet the lands we love are at risk. They have been scarred by a succession of extractive industries ranging from hard rock mining to logging, and now from intensive energy development. We advocate for sound stewardship in the face of forces that view our public lands solely as a commercial resource. At WRA, we are committed to safeguarding the ecological integrity of our treasured public lands and wildlife.
Defending Western Lands from the Impacts of Oil and Gas Development and Other Harm
Oil and gas development continues across the Rocky Mountain region, and WRA is playing a major role in ensuring that drilling is as safe as possible for the environment and the surrounding community. As drilling comes increasingly closer to population centers, particularly along the Front Range of Colorado, protecting the health and quality of life for families gains new urgency. We have always supported protections for the West’s most special places, and where drilling proceeds, WRA advocates that the energy industry “do it right” by employing modern technologies and state-of-the-art planning that minimize environmental, health, economic, and climate impacts.
Stopping Oil Shale and Tar Sands Development
Oil shale and tar sands development would irrevocably alter the West by depleting water resources, contributing to climate change and scarring lands and natural habitats. We are guarding against a resurgence of interest in commercial oil shale and tar sands development — interest that continues despite a lack of proven extraction technologies. WRA is shifting the debate by building a consensus that development decisions must be based on sound science and economics.
Program Profile: Energy
Our energy program advocates for increased use of the West’s natural bounty of renewable energy resources and for greater energy efficiency to reduce the environmental impacts of electricity production. Climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the production and burning of fossil fuels, will take a particularly hard toll on the mountain and desert West. The consequences of climate change are already visible: increased risk and duration of drought and wildfires, reduced snowpack, and extinction of vulnerable wildlife species.
Promoting Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency and increased investment in renewable energy sources are the economically and environmentally preferable ways to manage electricity demand. In addition to state-by-state efforts to increase renewable energy requirements for utilities, WRA engages in innovative partnerships with western utilities to encourage adoption of effective and economically viable greenhouse gas reduction strategies.
Coal Plant Issues
WRA is leading efforts to convince utilities and regulators to move to alternative energy sources. We provide analysis to states and energy utilities that show the economic benefits of shifting from coal to cleaner forms of energy, hastening the transition to renewable resources and leading to early retirements of existing coal plants and withdrawals of new proposals throughout the West.
Photo Credits: Brocken Inaglory, Moondigger