Long-term visions and goals for western water resource management, with time horizons of 2020, 2025, or 2030, are extremely important and useful. A number of studies and planning processes with such time horizons are under way or have been completed recently. Among the most notable recent contributions have been the Bureau of Reclamation's 'Water 2025' document and the joint Bureau/Sandia National Laboratories roadmap for desalination technology. These efforts, many of which will require substantial and sustained investments with long-term benefits, need to go forward and be fulfilled.
For a growing number of western states and metropolitan areas, however, the crunch is not coming in another decade or two ... it is here, now. Examples abound and are almost too numerous and familiar to mention: in the Columbia and Snake River basins, the Klamath River basin, the Missouri River basin, the Colorado, Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande, Powder, Tongue, etc. For them, there is not only the question of how to institute sustainable water management for the next quarter century and beyond, but of how to get through the next 5 years.
Large-scale and long-term options offer hope, but can be expected to take decades.' There is an unmet need for an agenda of achievable short-term strategies for improving water resource conditions in the West, while longer-term projects and policy changes are developed and implemented.3 This NWRI White Paper was designed to describe and promote near-term actions available for state, regional, and local policymakers.
This NWRI White Paper is also intended to reduce the likelihood of 'paralysis by analysis.' The proposals included here have relatively low (in several cases, nonexistent) capital costs, and are complementary rather than competitive - that is to say, state and local policymakers and water resource managers can proceed with any combination of these proposals in any order or even simultaneously, and not one of the proposals makes the others less effective or worthwhile. That makes this set of proposals quite different from the usual water resource project options involving high capital costs, long implementation times, and long periods of financial recovery. Those kinds of options normally require years of careful assessment to determine which option to undertake, how to develop financing, finding funding partners, acquiring rights of way, and so forth. By contrast, this paper offers a set of proposals to which policymakers and water managers could conceivably respond by choosing 'all of the above' and get started right away.