by Ben Gerig
According to the Colorado Water
Conservation Board, water demands along the Front Range will increase by a
sobering mutiplier over the next 40 years.
“If projections turn out to be true,
we will see a doubling of the population by the year 2050,” says Veva Deheza of
the Conservation Board. “We are already seeing areas of the state experiencing
stresses on their water supply.”
state demographer projects that “from the year 2000 – to 2030 – another 2.8 million
residents will be living in Colorado, with the majority of the population
concentrated in the South Platte Basin.”
water is increasingly precious. Growing agricultural, business and household
demands on streams, rivers, aquifers, and reservoirs place Denver residents at
a crossroads: accounting for Colorado’s diminishing water supply while
preserving our most vital resource for the future.
by utilities such as Denver Water will only meet 80 percent of the projected 2030
water needs in Colorado. According to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative,
“The largest gap is predicted to occur in the South Platte River Basin (Denver
metro area), with a shortfall of some 22 percent or 409,700 acre-feet.”
people don’t have a real sense of where (our) water comes from,” observes Becky
Long of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “We are facing large amounts of
growth on the Front Range and we are going to need to increase flexibility in
our water management systems.”
is seldom mentioned among city-dwellers. We expect that it will be allotted –
as we please – and cheaply. But where does our water come from, and what
changes must we make to keep it flowing?
starts with the snowpack,” notes Deheza. “The snow falls, it melts into the
streams or infiltrates into the ground. That water makes its way into the
reservoirs and storage areas and then (Denver Water) pulls it, as needed,
throughout the season.”
water for your daily shower likely is traveling hundreds of miles: from a
melting Breckenridge snow bank trickling to Dillon Reservoir, cascading through
Roberts Tunnel to the north fork of the South Platte River, which eventually dumps its treasure into Strontia Springs Reservoir. Finally, to make it fit for hygiene or other needs, the water is
pumped through treatment plants, coursing down 2,600 miles of pipelines, then
finally arriving at your shower, spigot or sink.
our sophisticated water delivery systems, demand both in Denver and downstream
is an escalating drain on the availability of water for posterity “Future needs
for water are beyond what the current supply is,” claims Bob Steger, Manager of
Raw Water Supply at Denver Water.
to Smart Water, Denver households use 159 gallons of water per day compared to
the national average of 100 gallons. Water supply planners estimate that a
typical household uses
0.5 acre-feet of water per year, or 150,000 gallons.
irrigation is the largest form of municipal water use. During Denver’s arid
summers, outdoor landscaping consumes 70 percent of the total water delivered
might not realize that we live in a semi-arid climate, and that Kentucky
bluegrass isn’t the most efficient thing to have on their lawns,” says Stacy
Chesney, Media Relations Specialist with Denver Water.
5,000 square feet of bluegrass with one-half inch of water, four times a week,
requires 20,000 gallons every month. Watering one fewer day per week over five
months saves 7,500 gallons of water and $36.80 in costs. Comparatively,
installing buffalo grass saves more than 85,000 gallons of water and $260 a
study at the University of Colorado found that “In 2002, mandatory water restrictions
reduced municipal demands by 56 percent in certain locations.” Ap-propriately, water-starved cities
across the country have now implemented irrigation guidelines, and not only in
times of drought.
there has been a lot of discussion about the other western states that are
mired in significant droughts. If they continue to put such a stress on
Colorado River supplies, what does that mean for Colorado?” asks Deheza.
water to reflect its impending scarcity may motivate Denver users to engage in
long-term conservation practices. “(Our) water is way too affordable – it’s
cheap!” says Deheza. “Pricing water appropriately is a way of incentivizing
needs to look at how they’re using water and make some decisions,” adds David
Spector of the Citizens Advisory Committee at Denver Water. “I don’t think it’s
reasonable to expect our (current) use and payment to go on, ad infinitum;
something has to give.”
it’s achieved, responsible stewardship of water is an investment in our
collective future. “The goal is to show people how to maximize every drop of
water so that they don’t have to change their lifestyles; simply enjoy it with
less water,” Deheza points out.