Will water limit business investment and growth in the West?


From ColoradoBiz (Bart Taylor):

…as the gap between supply and demand from the Colorado River grows – its forecast by the Bureau to be 4 to 6 million acre-feet by mid-century, roughly one-third its entire annual volume – the long-term implication is inarguable: change is coming to the Southwest U.S. Have water today? You may not in the future – and for some the near-future. We may not be “running out,” but a radically new supply regime could transform our economy – with new water have’s-and-have not’s, new means to regulate ownership and distribution, new projects and infrastructure, and profoundly, new industry that displaces water-intensive business that simply can’t operate in the West…

Water prices are rising. Circle of Blue, a global water information resource, reports an 18 percent rise in 30 major U.S cities since 2010 – and a 7 percent increase last year alone. In south metro-Denver, in the suburbs of Phoenix and Las Vegas, in Albuquerque, they’re certain to rise more for consumers and business.

At the same time businesses are refining they way they assess water-related risk. The value of water – or the lack of it – is increasingly quantified. For businesses looking to expand or relocate here, the prospect of rising water costs and supply shortfalls may add up to trouble for economic developers in the West…

Water delivery and wastewater management in the United States is a decidedly local affair. A dizzying maze of water districts, associations, and civic authorities manage a network of over 55,000 water utilities and about 16,000 wastewater facilities. In Colorado alone, around 300 separate entities deliver water to residents and businesses.

But can the interests of local utilities dovetail with those of regional planners? Northern Water in Fort Collins, Colo., has a bright future, serving thousands of users in northeastern Colorado via a huge system of water assets including the Big Thompson and Windy Gap projects. Less than a hundred miles south, along I-25, the water future of communities like Castle Rock and Parker is far less certain – some would argue in crisis. Is there incentive for Northern to act in Parker’s interest? The governor of the state might say yes; residents of Ft. Collins, not so much. ‘Local control’ may hamper collective planning throughout the Southwest.

More infrastructure coverage here.

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