Colorado’s population passes the 5 million mark

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From the Associated Press via The Durango Herald:

U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Wednesday show the state’s population went slightly over 5 million in July. The population rose by nearly 90,000 people from last year for a 1.8 percent increase. Neighboring Wyoming was the fastest-growing state with a 2.1 percent increase. It was followed by Utah and then Texas. The West led the nation, growing as a region at 1.2 percent.

More Colorado water coverage here.

CWCB: Is there a transmountain pipeline in Colorado’s future?

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The state is pondering proposed pipelines to move water from most areas of the state to the Front Range in an attempt to meet future water demands. Not all will be built, and none has been officially endorsed…

Strategies in the report that move water from one basin to another include:

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Proposed by Aaron Million, it would bring water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to reservoirs near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Yampa Pumpback: A pipeline would look at bringing water from Maybell to the Brighton area.

Green Mountain Pumpback: Water from Green Mountain Reservoir would be pumped back to Dillon Reservoir and moved to the Denver area.

Big Straw: A pipeline would take water from the Colorado River at the state line near Grand Junction and bring it to the Front Range.

At the request of Front Range roundtables, another project, the Blue Mesa Pumpback in the Gunnison River basin, also is being studied…

There are also alignments of pipelines in both the Arkansas and South Platte basins that would bring water to the Front Range, possibly storing it in Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a 72,000 acre-foot reservoir constructed near Parker that currently lacks water to fill it.

Here’s some background on solving Colorado’s water supply problems, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The newest project, proposed by entrepreneur Aaron Million, would build a pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir that would go around Colorado’s Rockies rather than through them. Another, the Yampa River pumpback plan, was suggested by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Those still face the pressure of a skeptical audience. The concept behind each of the projects – building a large-volume project to bring more water across the Continental Divide – is under renewed study by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, but a long way from becoming reality. Taking water from the Rio Grande basin is for the moment off the table, but all of the Colorado River basins are part of the CWCB study. Other plans look at moving water from farmlands in the Arkansas and South Platte valleys to serve population growth…

For the next decade, the major cities began developing alternatives to the big projects of the past, leading to major changes in how water was developed. There was more talk of recycling, drying up more farmland and more long-range planning. There was more speculation by private developers to buy ag water rights from struggling farmers to hold until the cities were willing to pay. That happened during two very wet decades in the 1980s and ’90s.

When the drought of 2002 came, the state mobilized in new ways. The CWCB launched its Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which in 2004 identified more agricultural dry-ups as the easiest way to meet future urban demands. State voters turned down Referendum A in 2003 that would have created a $2 billion state fund to develop projects. When the top-down approach didn’t work, the state Legislature created the grass-roots Interbasin Compact Committee and basin roundtables to help tackle the gnawing question: Could another transmountain project be developed?[…]

The state studies of water projects looked at the relative feasibility of each and found that it could be expensive to develop more than one. Each project could bring about 250,000 acre-feet and would cost between $7.5 billion and $10 billion to build. “Projects have a better chance of success if they evaluate and mitigate impacts and produce benefits in both the basin of use and the basin of origin,” [Jennifer Gimbel, CWCB executive director] said.

Even if agreements are reached, more water would be needed. Conservative estimates of growth and water needs call for 830,000 acre-feet of new supplies in 50 years, when the state’s population is expected to double to 10 million people. Could the carrying capacity of existing diversions be increased? “The state hasn’t looked at this comprehensively,” Gimbel said. “However, most of the transmountain projects are being used to full capacity, depending on the demand pattern on the East Slope. In other words most projects use as much transmountain water as is physically and legally available.” The IBCC’s model for balancing water portfolios between strategies – conservation, more diversions, ag dry-ups – is a useful tool, but has not produced the answer so far. Groups looking at the problem focused on general proportions, not a specific project at the most recent meeting.

More CWCB coverage here.