The eighth in the Citizen’s Guide series focuses on…
what we know and don’t know about climate change and its impact on Colorado’s enduring legacy, its water future. What might Colorado look and feel like as temperatures rise and growing , skiing and rafting seasons shift? An enduring legacy of Colorado is that Coloradans have always been good at adapting to a variable and changing water supply. The ancestral Puebloans of Mesa Verde between 750 and 1280 A.D., the Hispano settlers into the San Luis Valley beginning in 1852, the miners and farmers of the 1859-60 gold rush years, and the cities that followed all built ditches and reservoirs because they had to capture the snowmelt and the sudden storm runoff to survive and serve a growing population. The early 21st century drought teaches us once again that nature rules. So does the law. A state that must deliver approximately two-thirds of its water downstream to satisfy interstate legal obligations must be highly attuned to conserving and using the other one-third as well as it can. We have nearly 2,000 reservoirs in Colorado, large and small, to store water in the time of plenty for the time of want. In a single severe drought year of 2002, when our rivers and tributary groundwater aquifers produced one-fourth of our annual 16 million acre feet of water, we released 6 million acre feet of stored water to meet our water use and environmental needs, bringing us to within a half million acre feet of exhausting our stored water. Currently, there are 4.6 million people in Colorado, with 2.6 million more expected by the year 2030. The citizen water roundtable process is calling for a 50-year plan for Colorado’s water future. Now we learn from our climate scientists—among the best in the world are right here in Colorado—that “wetter wets” and “drier dries” will likely mark our future even more than our past. The mathematical grid boxes of the existing climate models map a flat world. Flat is not Colorado. We cannot afford the risk of doing nothing. In addition to the historical cycles of flood and drought, we may be facing an overall reduction in total water supply over what we historically planned for and depended upon. “Do we care?” has never been a question for Coloradans. “How we might prepare?” That’s the question we’ve always been interested in. Taking the calculated risk in the face of an uncertain water future is a most fundamental characteristic of Coloradans.
Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Climate Change Foreword by Greg Hobbs Colorado Foundation for Water Education
Citizen’s Guide Guide to to Colorado Colorado Climate Climate Change Change Citizen’s