Colorado to release draft of new water plan, calling it a blueprint for the state’s future |

Colorado to release draft of new water plan, calling it a blueprint for the state’s future

The new version of the Colorado Water Plan eyes collaborative ways to address water shortages projected to 2050

Chris Outcalt
The Colorado Sun
Horsetooth Reservoir, seen on May 17, 2022, spans 6.5 miles long with surrounding land available for recreational fishing, boating, camping, diving and more. The Colorado-Big Thompson Project is aimed to transport water from the west to the east slope of Colorado for drinking water, irrigation, and hydropower.
Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America / Courtesy Photo

COLORADO — The Colorado Water Conservation Board on Thursday will debut a new blueprint for how the state can approach dealing with projected water shortages by 2050.

The Colorado Water Plan updates a document released in 2015. The plan was first drafted at the request of then-Gov. John Hickenlooper after a particularly warm year in 2012. Since then, climate change and other factors have only increased the risk facing Colorado’s water supply. The threat of wildfires exists year-round, the impacts of a two-decade drought have deepened and the state’s population continues to grow.

The 239-page document notes that the state could experience municipal and industrial water shortages of between 230,000 and 740,000 acre-feet by 2050. Current combined annual municipal and industrial water use is 496,000 acre-feet, according to the plan. (An acre-foot is the amount it takes to cover an acre in a foot of water, or about 325,000 gallons.)

The plan, which will be posted to the conservation board website Thursday afternoon, also notes how conservation efforts can stretch dwindling supplies. Water conservation and efficiency improvements could potentially reduce that future need by 300,000 acre-feet annually, according to the plan.

“For new people moving to the state, what they may not know about the Colorado water plan is it’s a blueprint for what we do with water in the state of Colorado,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

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