Credit: Photo: CDM

Colorado's treatment plants must accommodate the state's growing population, which is projected to increase 65% over the next 25 years.
Denver Water's Marston treatment plant has a 250 mgd capacity. Due to population growth, Colorado will need an additional 205 billion gallons of new water by 2030.

Before addressing specific water issues, the study asked roundtable members one question: What is important to people in Colorado when they consider how water should be used and managed? From this emerged a set of nine major water management objectives:

  • Meet municipal and industrial demands
  • Meet agricultural demands
  • Optimize existing and future water supplies
  • Enhance recreational opportunities
  • Provide environmental enhancements
  • Promote cost effectiveness
  • Protect cultural values
  • Provide operational flexibility
  • Comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and water rights.

Recognizing that each individual would value these objectives in different ways, individual preferences for each roundtable member in each basin were noted.


The study revealed that current and future water projects and management processes implemented by municipal and industrial providers will meet about 80% of Colorado's water needs through 2030.

In 2005, a second phase of the initiative was launched, focusing on building collaborative strategies to address the identified supply gaps. Technical roundtables with individual mission statements were formed to seek multi-objective solutions and conduct technical work around four key areas:

  • Water efficiency (agricultural, municipal, and industrial).
  • Finding alternatives to agricultural transfers from permanent dry-up of agricultural lands, such as long-term rotating following programs, interruptible supply agreements, and water banks.
  • Quantifying and prioritizing recreation and environmental needs.
  • The 20% gap between municipal and industrial water needs and availability, agricultural shortages, and environmental and recreational needs, including developing alternatives.

While one of the initiative's goals was not to interfere with local planning, Dave Little, manager of water resource planning for Denver Water, says, “Even though the statewide initiative is focused on the 20% gap in identified water supply, we cannot lose sight of the critical importance of implementing the programs cities have identified to address the other 80% of needed supply, or we'll have real problems.”

The technical roundtables continue to exchange information to prevent overlap among topics. The information generated in the roundtables will be a valuable resource for the CWCB as it develops water policies. By providing various solutions, the final product will help policymakers and stakeholders further understand the role water efficiency, agricultural transfers, and new water development can play in meeting future needs.

— Kuharich is the director of the CWCB; Brown is the acting deputy director of the CWCB; Morea is vice president at CDM, Denver; Rowan is a senior environmental engineer at CDM, Denver; DiNatale is a senior water resources engineer at CDM, Denver.