Colorado River Water Availability Study

Over the last decade, Colorado has experienced rapidly increasing demands placed on the state’s water supply by both traditional consumptive uses and more recent nonconsumptive (recreational and environmental) uses. By the year 2050, Colorado’s population is expected to nearly double to between 6 and 8 million people (current population: approx. 4.5 million). This population growth coupled with concerns over both the recent severe drought and projections of greater climate variability raises significant concerns about the water supplies Colorado has available to meet the needs of its citizens and the environment.

What is the Colorado River Water Availability Study?
The CWCB is conducting the multi-phase Colorado River Water Availability Study (CRWAS) to determine how much water from the Colorado River Basin System is available to meet Colorado’s future water needs under alternate hydrologies.


Specifically, the CRWAS under Phase I seeks to answer the following questions:
  • How does historical hydrology compare to a longer hydrologic trace based on tree ring analysis under current water demands?
  • What is a reasonable projection for hydrology as affected by climate change?
  • What quantitative estimates of the amount of consumptive use, above existing levels, can occur within Colorado under certain compact assumptions (“water available for future consumptive use”) and under current water demands?

CRWAS Collaborative Approach
The CRWAS involves numerous state-sponsored programs and CWCB projects, including the CWCB Climate Change Technical Advisory Group (CCTAG) and the Joint Front Range Climate Change Vulnerability Study. The CWCB also coordinates its CRWAS efforts with its ongoing water policy and management programs, especially the Interbasin Compact Committee and the basin roundtable processes, as well as the upcoming study of Colorado River Compact Compliance authorized by the Colorado General Assembly.

More Information about the CRWAS

CRWAS documents, including the Scope of Work for Phase I, Water Resources Planning Model Users’ Manuals, presentations and newsletters, are available on the CRWAS Supporting Documents page.