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Facing Our Future report cover

Facing Our Future: Report Summary

Facing Our Future provides a comprehensive, balanced, and affordable approach to satisfy Front Range water demands without harming the West Slope or the environment.

The traditional approach for meeting water demands (just building more dams that store water often taken from other river basins) simply won't work for the future—it's too expensive, slow, and controversial. Facing Our Future offers a new path forward, a balanced portfolio of water supply strategies that is a "smarter" way to meet Front Range water demands.

The blueprint in Facing Our Future differs from the "old formula" in two critical ways:

  1. it makes urban water conservation and efficiency the top sources of water to meet increased urban demand, and
  2. it recognizes the need for water supply projects to conserve, protect and restore rivers for their environmental and recreational benefits.

The new toolbox for increasing water efficiency and meeting future water needs includes:

The report analyzes a dozen new storage proposals and concludes that several have potential to be consistent with "smart" principles if designed and developed properly and may be appropriate to supply additional water needs.

Future water development should avoid harming communities and economies of the West Slope. The West Slope has a huge stake in the outcome of Front Range water planning. Through focusing on meeting Front Range water demands, Facing Our Future offers a solution that benefits all of Colorado.

Many of Colorado's rivers and streams are impaired as a result of low flows due to existing diversions. Rivers are too important to Colorado's economy and quality of life to allow continued degradation and de-watering. When developed, new supplies must help conserve, protect and restore our rivers.

The key is conservation. Our analysis reveals there is huge untapped potential for curbing per capita urban water demands. Using just single family residential savings as an example (see table below), over the next 25 years we expect savings could reach over 200,000 acre-feet, enough for over 1 million new residents.

Basin Indoor Use Outdoor Use
South Platte 48,131–106,314 acre-feet/year 19,969–112,323 acre-feet/year
Arkanasas Basin 10,920–23,910 acre-feet/year 4,711–26,501 acre-feet/year

Choices regarding proposed new dams and diversion projects should be guided by a set of 10 "smart water supply" principles. These principles will fully integrate public opinion and economic, environmental, and recreational needs into the water planning and development process:

  1. Make full, efficient use of existing in-basin and imported water supplies, and reusable return flows, before increasing transbasin diversions.
  2. Invest in the most cost-effective and least environmentally damaging water supply options first. All costs should be considered in the analysis of new supply options.
  3. Fully integrate conservation, water reuse, and demand management into the water supply planning process.
  4. Ensure that new and refurbished water projects do not increase the risk of extinction of native species nor adversely modify designated critical habitat.
  5. Before taking more water out of rivers, adopt interruptible supply agreements (where feasible) between agricultural water users and other water users.
  6. Improve use of existing water supply infrastructure and sharing of resources between water users to avoid unnecessary new diversions and duplication of facilities.
  7. Ensure public involvement in the planning process to ensure that project developers understand and minimize environmental and socioeconomic impacts.
  8. Use incremental approaches to providing new water supplies, to facilitate adding, changing, ending, accelerating, or delaying new supply strategies as demands change.
  9. Expand existing storage and delivery before building new facilities on undeveloped sites.
  10. Ensure that new projects provide multiple benefits, satisfy the greatest possible range of needs, and use the most effective methods for minimizing environmental damage.

The balanced portfolio in Facing Our Future can deliver these results:

South Platte: Average Annual Yield in Acre Feet
Conservation, Temporary Transfers, Reuse, System Refinements 80,000 to 542,000
5 reservoir enlargements with native water 46,000
2 conjunctive use proposals 19,000 to 100,000
2 increased trans-basin diversions, with new reservoirs 48,000
Total 193,000 to 736,000
Arkansas: Average Annual Yield in Acre Feet
Conservation, Temporary Transfers, Reuse, System Refinements 30,000 to 69,000
1 set of reservoir enlargements (native and trans-basin water) 70,000
1 new pipeline carrying mostly native water (plus 2 reservoirs) 51,000
Total 151,000 to 190,000

The bottom line is that Colorado has enough water to meet its needs, now and in the future. Using our balanced approach, citizens, water providers and government can work cooperatively to meet growing Front Range urban water demands without harming Colorado's rivers or quality of life.

pdfDownload the full report. (PDF, 1.7 mb)

To get a print copy or a CD, email or call 303.534.7066 x1514