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The growing concern with global warming and the fear that drastic climate changes that could occur in its wake are resonating in the Colorado River Valley. And water managers are worried.
At a January meeting of the Colorado River Water Conservation District board of directors, general manager Eric Kuhn said recent research by climatologist Robert Balling suggest annual runoff from spring snowmelt in the Colorado basin could decrease 35% by 2050.
How decreases in water flows due to climate change will impact an already strapped supply in the Colorado River can only be surmised. Nevertheless, it must be factored in to projections of future water demands, especially with the growing population on the Front Range. "The issue of future climate change on water resources is just now beginning to get attention within the water community," Kuhn said.
The Statewide Water Supply Initiative, commissioned by the state legislature in 2003, tallied existing water supplies and projected future demands. It found the state will need more than 600,000 acre feet of new water supplies by 2030.
An acre foot - enough water to cover an acre of land one foot deep - is equivalent to the average amount of water a family of four uses in a year.
To fill the gap between present supply and future demand, several water storage projects and methods of transportation are being studied.
These so-called "straws" would suck water out of West Slope reservoirs and rivers and pipe it across the mountains to the Front Range. In another - the $4 billion Yampa Diversion Project - the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District aims to pull about 300,000 acre feet a year out of the Yampa River and transport it through about 200 miles of pipelines and tunnels under the mountains to the plains, where it would serve Front Range cities.
The aim of the initiative is to develop a plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, that are believed to cause global warming.