Demand for Water
Many people regard Colorado as one of the best locations in which to live, work, and play. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Colorado’s population is forecast to increase from 5.6 million to 7.8 million by 2040. All this growth will increase the demand for water.
Almost half of the state’s growth, 1.1 million people, will take place in the seven-county Denver metro area, where population will soar to 4.1 million by 2040. With one acre-foot of water needed for every 2 families, the growth requires almost 300,000 acre-feet of new water every year.
Impact of Drought
While Colorado has been growing, the state has witnessed sustained and systemic drought on a scale never before recorded. Precipitation patterns and amounts have recently shown their ability to swing and vary wildly. The gap between water supply and increased demand may result in a significant shortfall within the next few decades.
Water Influences Many Aspects of the Economy in Colorado
Surface water supplies depend heavily on snowpack accumulation that varies from year to year, with melting snow accounting for 70 percent of surface water flows. In the past 30 years Colorado has warmed substantially, resulting in:
- Earlier and larger snowmelts, shifting peak runoff by as much as a month
- Impacts on agricultural irrigation timing
- Challenges for water managers to sustain reserves through the summer
- Increasing drought severity
Simultaneously, demand for water resources continues to increase as populations grow and warmer temperatures drive up crop irrigation requirements. These trends are likely to continue and may become more pronounced in the coming decades as Colorado warms an additional 2.5 to 5 degrees F by mid-century. The ability to adapt and remain flexible is the key to increasing Colorado’s climate resiliency in the water sector.