Water crisis looms if Colorado fails to meet its legal obligations to other states, study warns
Water sufficient for more than 1 million homes on the Front Range could be lost and thousands of acres of farmland on the Western Slope and Eastern Plains could go dry if the state can’t supply enough water from the drought-stricken Colorado River to downstream states as it is legally required to do, according to a new study.
Among the Colorado River Risk Study’s key findings:
- In the next 25 years, if the state does nothing to set more water aside in Lake Powell, the Front Range could lose up to 97% of its Colorado River water.
- All but two of the state’s eight major river basins, under that same “do-nothing” scenario, also face dramatic water cutbacks.
- If Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico increase their water use by as little as 11.5%, as predictions indicate they will by 2037, the risk of a legal crisis spurring such cutbacks on the river doubles, rising to 78% from 39% under one scenario, and to 92% from 46% under another.
“Every water user in every river basin [in Colorado] faces some risk,” said Andy Mueller, general manager of the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District, one of the sponsors of the study. The Durango-based Southwestern Water Conservation District also sponsored the work.
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