Study points up competition for West’s water

The state of the Colorado River, pictured, will be the topic of a meeting tonight (May 18) at Grand Junction City Hall.

Water shipped to the Front Range packs far greater economic punch than water allowed to run West, according to a study that says a “water gap” separating the state’s supplies from its demands is fast developing.

The study, commissioned by the Front Range Water Council, is the subject of the Mesa County Water Association’s State of the River meeting tonight at the Grand Junction City Hall council chamber.

The study amounts to a “wake-up call” for West Slope residents and businesses, Hannah Holm of the water association said.

“These kinds of arguments come up over and over again as competition for water heats up,” Holm said. “It’s worthwhile, we think, to let the community be aware of that kind of thinking.”

Water used on the Front Range generates more economic activity than water used on the Western Slope, the study said.

Primary among the findings was that Western Slope businesses sell $7,200 in goods and services per acre-foot of water used versus $132,000 generated by an acre-foot of water used by Front Range businesses.

The report also characterizes the West Slope as withdrawing 41 percent of the state’s water to serve 11 percent of the state’s population, versus withdrawals of 19 percent of the state’s water to serve the Front Range, where 80 to 85 percent of Coloradans reside.

Orchard Mesa fruitgrower Mel Rettig, Grand Valley Water Users Association Manager Dick Proctor and Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown will lead discussion of the study.

An update on the winter snowpack and the operations of Green Mountain Reservoir and the Aspinall Unit, both of which affect river flows in the Grand Valley, also will be provided by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“Regardless of how you feel about perspectives that suggest water should go where it generates the greatest economic value, it’s worth understanding the interplay of competing demands for West Slope water, since this theme will be ever present as struggles to meet future water needs intensify,” water association President Kirby Winn said.

The meeting runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. It is free and will be open to the public.


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