The issue at a glance
Who: The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), a governor-appointed water policy organization comprised of representatives from each of the state's eight major river basins, plus one member representing the city and county of Denver. Created in 1937, the board is a division of the state's Department of Natural Resources.
What: The Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI), which aims to evaluate and solve current and future water supply and demand issues.
The problem: With Colorado's population expected to increase more than 65% in the next 25 years, the state faces serious water shortages.
Solution: An 18-month study involving 80 stakeholder meetings from all eight of Colorado's river basins. The meetings identified problems and generated objectives. Technical roundtable meetings continue to devise solutions to water supply issues.
Faced with escalating population growth and drought, Colorado has reason to be concerned with its water supply. Now more than ever, thoughtful management of Colorado's water resources is essential to ensure a healthy economy while protecting the state's environmental resources.
Colorado's population is expected to grow by more than 65% over the next 25 years. While the majority of the state's population lives along the Front Range (the area between Pueblo and Fort Collins), 86% of the state's water comes from other parts of the state.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) commissioned and paid for an 18-month, $2.7 million study in June 2003 to assess water supply and usage demands in Colorado's eight river basins as part of a landmark Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI). SWSI is the first comprehensive examination of Colorado's current and future water supplies and demands. Other states and municipalities across the nation also are evaluating their water assets to identify and avert water-supply challenges.
Critical to the initiative's success was 80 stakeholder meetings, which were held from August 2003 to February 2005 in locations within all eight river basins. In addition to local interest groups and water experts, these meetings included municipal users, agricultural users, local governments, water conservation and conservancy districts, recreational and environmental interests, and the business community. “This initiative opened a dialogue that would not otherwise have been possible,” says Jeff Crane, president of the Colorado Watershed Assembly.
The meetings opened the forum to smaller communities, which feared their economic, social, and cultural interests would be undermined by the needs of urban areas. There also was concern that the process would drive development of new water storage projects at the expense of the environment or recreation.
Because water has long been a divisive issue in the western United States, it was important for the statewide water supply initiative to establish a clear set of objectives. With input from the CWCB, the meetings defined water management objectives and identified solutions for meeting future water needs.