Water report dooms state supply by 2050

By 2050, fast-growing Colorado will need as much as 1 million acre-feet more water than it uses now, and it will have difficulty meeting the new demand, a state study said.

Demands for municipal and industrial water could exceed supply by as much as 630,000 acre-feet by mid-century, the Statewide Water Supply Initiative said in a report it released Friday.

Colorado is entitled to just more than half of an average of about 6.5 million acre-feet of water that flows through the Colorado River Basin. Much of that water is diverted to the Front Range, which is expected to remain the population center of the state, the study says.

The state’s population could grow to as many as 10 million people by 2050, and water use likely would double, the study says.

The Western Slope, however, “will grow at the fastest rate of any area in Colorado between now and 2050,” the report said. “Population on the West Slope is expected to more than double in the next 40 years with some growth rates as high as 240 percent.”

The development of an oil shale industry would increase the demand for water on the west side of the state by as many as 120,000 acre-feet, depending on the technologies used to free petroleum products from the Green River Formation of western Colorado, the report says.

The report, which cautions that its recommendations do not necessarily represent a statewide consensus, called on the state by 2015 to evaluate “specific multipurpose projects or packages of projects to develop new water supplies for use on the West Slope and the Front Range.”

It also called for the Colorado Water Conservation Board to determine “the right mix of strategies,” such as conservation reuse, agricultural transfers and development of new water supplies to fill the gap between supplies and municipal and industrial needs.


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