Tue March 1, 2011

Water Report Scorns Big Diversion Projects

A new report by a Boulder-based conservation group says the arid Colorado Front Range can meet its future water demands without expensive and controversial water diversion projects. 

The "Filling the Gap" study by Western Resource Advocates comes to this bold conclusion: by implementing more conservation and reuse programs, voluntary water swaps between farmers and cities and some small storage projects, eastern Colorado could have an excess of water by the year 2050.  Even with 2.5 million new people expected to move here by then. 

People like Drew Peternell of Trout Unlimited say Front Range water utilities haven’t exhausted all these options, and he says more trans-mountain diversions will have a devastating impact on the environment and the economy.

"Trans-mountain diversions of water have left the upper Colorado River and many of its tributaries in Grand County dry or nearly dry at certain times," Peternell said in a conference call with reporters. "The result is low stream flows, higher water temperatures, fewer fish and less healthy streams overall."

The report does hail a couple of smaller-scale water storage projects that are currently proposed –including Northern Water’s Windy Gap Firming project. Water managers have said the larger ones are necessary because conservation and reuse alone won’t be able to meet future demands for water.