The challenge is daunting. The population of eleven Front Range counties is expected to swell by another 2.5 million people by 2050, pushing municipal water needs to more than a million acre-feet of water a year. That’s about 365,000 acre-feet more than the available supply. But Filling the Gap makes the case for pragmatic planning now rather than panic later.
Some additional dams and diversion projects are deemed acceptable by the report’s authors. But the Upper Colorado River Basin is already quite stressed by the Moffat, Windy Gap and Colorado-Big Thompson projects, leaving anemic streams and declining water quality. Fully two-thirds of the native waters from the region are drained into the Front Range these days, and city planners have their eyes on much more.
But the new study calculates that much of the increasing demand can be met through common-sense conservation strategies, better cooperation among agricultural and municipal interests, and other measures that don’t involve tapping deeper into overextended supplies.