Water makes Colorado green, not only through irrigation provided by farmers, ranchers and others, but also as the primary economic driver of tourism, agriculture, recreation, and, if you think about it, every other industry in the state. Colorado’s water resources are limited, and we must plan for future growth.
Approximately 80 percent of the people in Colorado live on the Front Range between Fort Collins and Pueblo. Over the years, they have depended on transcontinental diversions of Western Slope water. Approximately 500,000 acre feet of water is diverted every year to the Front Range. Additionally, there is another 400,000 to 500,000 acre feet of Western Slope water diverted to the Rio Grande River Basin through the San Juan/Chama Project. Also, there is approximately 160,000 acre feet of Colorado River Basin water that has been purchased, but not diverted to the Front Range.
Water in the Colorado River Basin is shared between the upper basin states and the lower basin states through a compact which was agreed upon in the 1920s and which has served the basin well. Lake Powell and Lake Mead were built to store mountain spring runoff and floodwater to guarantee water to California, Arizona and Nevada. Presently, both Powell and Mead are dangerously low primarily due to the drought of the past 14 years.