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“Tere’s no answer about what it would mean for Colorado if Lake Powell dropped below hydropower production and you couldn’t meet Compact obligations,” he said. “Tere is a lot of uncertainty in how that would play out and so there’s a lot of interest in coming up with a solution to try and head that off.”


Lake Powell plays a valuable role in both water allocation and hydro- power production. Te Upper Basin is obligated under the Colorado River Compact to release water to the Lower Basin; Powell provides the storage capac- ity to meet those obligations. And Glen Canyon Dam is an important part of the hydropower grid. But for the Upper Basin states, their water comes primarily from projects located above Powell. Te water supply challenge is clearly


before the state of Colorado. “Because we are looking at a gap caused by new population and new development, we need to make sure that the new growth uses the best conservation practices available,” said Anne Castle, former as- sistant secretary for water and science at the Department of the Interior. She is a fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center


for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She spoke Sept. 16 at the Colorado River Conservation Dis- trict’s Water Seminar in Grand Junction. Kenney said much of the state’s focus is on demand management, “which basi- cally means getting a lot more efficient and trying to stop this gradual uptake in water consumption.” He noted that it can be done “without undermining agricultural productivity.” “Te question is how to get more efficient in a way that limits the pain,” he said. “Taking land out of production is not something people like to see happen.” Colorado’s Water Plan lays out a


framework that aims to slow the perma- nent transfer of water rights from agri- cultural to urban uses, known as “buy and dry.” Most of the state’s Colorado River water is used by farmers. “Without a water plan, Colorado could lose up to 700,000 more acres of irrigated agricultural lands – that equals 20 percent of irrigated agricultural lands statewide and nearly 35 percent in Colo- rado’s most productive basin, the South Platte,” the Plan says. “While the right to buy or sell water rights must not be


Most of the expected urban growth in Colorado will occur on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.


infringed upon, Colorado’s Water Plan describes market-competitive options to typical ‘buy-and-dry’ transactions.” State officials know they must find a way to accommodate the anticipated urban growth, which is projected to occur mostly on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. “Te challenges we face as a state are daunting on the supply and demand side,” James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said at the Water Seminar. “We have 5.3 million people now and we are projected conservatively to hit 10 million relatively soon.”


Te state will need $20 billion over the next 34 years to pay for the necessary pipelines, storage and water treatment facilities, Eklund said, adding that the dollar figure “is not some ridiculously high number.”


Also speaking at the seminar was


Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Conservation District, which represents 15 West Slope counties that contain a majority of the Colorado River Basin. Te district is completing a Colorado River risk study that outlines potential worst-case scenarios. Kuhn said Coloradans “are going to have to cut back our consumptive uses” going forward as insurance against another dry period such as occurred in the early 2000s. “If we start with less than 15 or 16 million acre-feet of water in Lake Powell and we were to go through another 2001-2004-type drought, we essentially drain Lake Powell without action,” he said. “If we can’t meet the downstream obligations under the [Interim Guide- lines for Lower Basin Shortages], the concern is we potentially have a Com- pact problem.”


Planning for Utah’s Growth


To the west of Colorado, Utah is using about all of its Colorado River supply. Te Upper Basin Compact entitles the state to 23 percent of the water appor- tioned to the Upper Basin in the 1922


4 • Colorado River Project • River Report • Winter 2016-2017


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