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Rebecca Mitchell
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The Municipal & Industrial Water Supply and Demand Gap

Colorado’s population surpassed 5 million people in the summer of 2008, and it is expected to double to 10 million people by 2050. The majority of the growth will be on Colorado’s Front Range, but the fastest growth rates will occur on the Western Slope. The populations of the Colorado, Gunnison, Southwest and Yampa/White Basins are expected to more than double between 2005 and 2050.

This population growth will drive a significant need for additional water to meet future municipal and industrial (M&I) demands. Through the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI), which provided a comprehensive identification of Colorado’s current and future water needs, the CWCB initially projected water demands to the year 2030 and estimated that Colorado would need an additional 630,000 acre feet (AF) of water for M&I use by 2030. The CWCB recently updated these projections and now estimates that Colorado will need more than between 538,000 and 812,000 AF of additional water by 2050 to meet M&I needs with passive conservation included.

Many local water providers have projects or plans in place – known as Identified Projects and Processes (IPPs) – to address these increasing water demands. These IPPs include: ­
  • Growth into existing supplies ­
  • Conservation ­
  • Reuse of existing or future consumable water supplies ­
  • Agricultural transfers ­
  • New water supply projects
Yet, even if water providers are fully successful in implementing all of their IPPs, they can only meet about 80 percent of the identified need, leaving about a 20 percent “gap” in water supply needs. Most of this gap is in the South Platte and Arkansas Basins, but significant gaps exist in every basin. To the extent these identified projects and processes are unsuccessful, the gap will be larger and will occur sooner.

The CWCB tracks and monitors local water providers’ IPPs to help identify ways to fill the state’s water supply gap and to continually recalculate the gap as new solutions are identified.