The last decade has brought many changes to Colorado’s water supply outlook. Despite the recent economic recession, the state will continue to experience significant population growth. Other pressures on Colorado’s water supply include:
- Severe drought,
- A desire to meet multiple needs (e.g., municipal, agricultural, environmental, recreational) with existing resources, and
- Agricultural impacts due to water shortages, urbanization and transfers to new uses.
Wise and thoughtful water supply planning is critical to ensure a secure future for the state. Meeting future water needs must be done in a manner that considers all solutions and addresses the varied water needs of Colorado and its citizens. The CWCB is focused on helping prepare for and meet Colorado’s future water supply needs.
The information provided in this section includes details about Colorado’s water supply and demands
, the significant water supply gaps
that exist in several areas of the state and the range of potential options
to meet these challenges.
Colorado’s Water Supply
Within Colorado, most areas receive less than 20 inches of natural precipitation each year, so most of the state requires irrigation to grow crops or to support urban landscapes. In the high mountain areas, which generally receive more than 20 inches of precipitation, almost all of the precipitation falls as snow. Therefore, Colorado’s water supplies are primarily snow melt runoff.
While the state’s river systems generate an average 16 million acre feet of renewable water each year, about two-thirds of this water is obligated to leave the state under various interstate compacts and agreements
. In addition, of the 16 million AF, about 80% of the water is on the Western Slope, yet about 80% of the state’s population resides on the Eastern Slope. Most of the irrigated agriculture lands are on the Eastern Slope as well. Colorado also uses renewable and non-renewable groundwater to meet our water supply needs.
The CWCB is conducting the Colorado River Water Availability Study to help answer how much water is available for future uses. Visit the study’s page
for more information.