IBCC reports about population growth and water needs

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Last week the IBCC reported about Colorado’s population growth and water needs and several projects that may or may not help, if they ever get built. Here’s a report from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

Reports from the Interbasin Compact Committee predict a doubling of the statewide population, with most of the growth happening on the Front Range. But the population of Southwest Colorado will grow at least that fast, to between 202,000 to 260,000, up from about 100,000 today. All those new Coloradans will need water, and the reports predict a shortfall for cities and industry of 320,000 to 1.4 million acre-feet by 2050…

But Western Slope water experts aren’t in a hurry to talk about sending mountain water to the Front Range. One of the IBCC’s reports released last week considers six major projects to import more water to Front Range cities. Two siphon water from Front Range farming areas, while the other four would be pumpbacks from the Western Slope. They include a 400-mile pipeline from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the much-maligned “Big Straw” from the Colorado River on the border with Utah.

Eric Kuhn, director of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, called the potential big projects “a recipe for disaster.” But he thinks they face large obstacles before they are built. “Bigger projects are bigger targets. They’re billions and billions of dollars. I think everybody assumes somebody else is going to pay,” Kuhn said…

Indeed, the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District has floated a plan to pump Yampa River water to the north Front Range, but it couldn’t build the pipeline without help from the state government, said Northern spokesman Brian Werner. Right now, cities in Northern’s service area get their new water from buying out the water rights of farmers, which can devastate rural economies. “The bottom line is more people are going to be living in urban areas. And if we don’t provide some options, the next option is to buy and dry,” Werner said.

Kuhn thinks the Front Range hasn’t been serious enough about conservation. Southern California has doubled its population without any new water, Kuhn said…

IBCC members are also waiting for the first part of a study on how much water Colorado can legally claim from the Colorado River Basin. The results should be in by December or January, said Eric Hecox, who coordinates the IBCC for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

More IBCC coverage here.

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