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.
From 2010 to 2020, the population of the Greeley metropolitan statistical area (MSA) expanded from 252,825 to 328,981. The 30.1 percent increase makes it the fastest-growing metro area in Colorado and the fourth fastest-growing metro area in the country, according to 2020 census data released last month.
The Greeley metro area has been ranked as the fastest growing “city” in Colorado by 24/7 Wall Street with a population growth of 32.1% from 2010-2020. For comparison, the population of Colorado grew by 15.5%, and the U.S. population increased by 6.7%.
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.