From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):
The 26th annual Governor’s Conference on Agriculture saw more than 425 people engaged in the various ag industries gather at the Denver Renaissance Hotel Wednesday and the picture that emerged is one of an industry beset by consumers who don’t understand or don’t care about it, a changing marketplace in which commodity prices are the same as they were decades ago while costs continue to climb, and a looming climate catastrophe.
Case in point: Water, which will be more in demand than ever in the coming half-century, will continue to disappear.
During the morning general session Dr. Gregory Graff, associate professor of economics at Colorado State University, gave a presentation on the “value chain” of agriculture. Among the highlights was optimism that there are great opportunities for food manufacturing in Colorado. Graff said consumers care most about how fresh their food is, and that means putting food processing plants as close to the crop source as possible. He specifically mentioned cheese-making and processing other dairy foods as presenting tremendous new opportunities in Colorado.
But food processing uses vast amounts of water, and Colorado’s water sources are already overtaxed. The South Platte River, one of the most developed and appropriated rivers in the United States, is now the subject of three ongoing studies to find ways to conserve, divert, and store even more water from it.
At the same time, climatologists at CSU say Colorado is getting hotter and drier and, if the trend continues, by 2050 Denver will have a climate more like Albuquerque, N.M.
During an afternoon breakout session, Tarryn Finnessey, senior climate change specialist at [the Colorado Water Conservation Board], said at the same time water use increases in coming decades, streamflows will decrease, the peak mountain runoff season will begin earlier, and snowpack will decrease.
“Looking ahead, there’s not even enough water to meet existing demand, let alone increased demand,” Finnessey said.