Study highlights state’s key river role

The Colorado River probably still has water that could be used for development in Colorado, but how much remains unknown, according to a new study of the river.

As many as 900,000 acre-feet of water could be available for development, the study suggests. It also suggests that under a worst-case scenario, there could be no water for development by 2040.

The Colorado River Water Availability Study presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on Tuesday is the first phase of two phases of study on the river.

“We are on the cutting edge, and we are far ahead of the other basin states” in determining how much water is available, said Jennifer Gimble, director of the water conservation board.

A similar basin-wide study is under way, Gimble said.

Better understanding of how much water is available for diversion and how much must be sent down river will help water officials evaluate proposals to divert water from the river, Gimble said.

The downstream states of Arizona, California and Nevada “are all tapped out,” Gimble said. “We’re trying to help them figure out how they can maneuver” their water supplies.

The study will be released next month for public comment, which will be used to develop the second phase of the study, Gimble said. The second phase is to address availability of water for municipal, industrial, agricultural, recreational and other needs.

The study, which was authorized by the Legislature in 2007, examined 1,100 measuring stations in the Colorado River Basin to predict how climate change would affect individual streams.

Five climate-change models were applied to the basin in an effort to predict how much water would be available by 2040.

Additional information about the study is available at http://cwcb.state.co.us/WaterInfo/CRWAS/.


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