Filling the Gap: Commonsense Solutions for Meeting Front Range Water Needs

Nearly 70% of Colorado’s population is concentrated on the eastern side of the state in the South Platte River Basin along the “Front Range”— a band of cities and communities located immediately east of the Rocky Mountains. According to state projections, the population of the 11 Front Range counties of the South Platte Basin is projected to grow by 2.5 million people between 2008 and 2050, for a total of close to 5.8 million residents by 2050. These new residents will drive demand for additional municipal water supply. Demands for the 5.8 million residents and industry along the Front Range will be approximately 1.06 million acre-feet in 2050 — an increase of 365,000 acre-feet annually compared to today’s water needs. While current planning efforts still lean towards traditional measures for supplying water — dams and diversions, pumps and pipelines, and other structural projects — Colorado can chart a new, innovative path forward that protects our rivers, streams, and local communities.

Employing widely accepted data, this report explores four water supply strategies – acceptable planned projects, water conservation, reuse, and voluntary water sharing with the agriculture sector. Importantly, our portfolio more than meets future needs without the large, costly, and environmentally damaging trans-basin diversions that have been a hallmark of traditional water supply planning.

“Building and improving on the State Water Supply Initiative 2010, this well-written report outlines a strategy for economically meeting Front Range municipal water demands to 2050 while protecting Front Range streamflows and avoiding further West Slope diversions.”
—Chuck Howe, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Colorado, Boulder

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