For more than fifty years, Colorado’s farm land has been drying up. Not from drought, but to meet the thirst of growing cities. Now farmers in one of the most threatened basins are trying a new approach -- one that keeps most of their lands growing crops but also supplies urban needs. Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee has the second of two reports on the movement of water from farms to cities.
Every time someone in a Front Range city turns on the tap, the water flowing out has a history. Much of it used to go to irrigate thriving farms and support communities on the Eastern Plains. As cities flourish, parts of rural Colorado are drying up. Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee has the first of two reports on how people are trying to change that story.
As a headwaters state, Colorado provides much of the water that allows cities and farms in the desert southwest to bloom. But the state’s own population is projected to soar, and now water managers are starting to discuss ways to pipe water back into the state. One of highest profile and most controversial ideas right now is a proposal to build a 550 mile pipeline between the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwestern Wyoming and the Colorado Front Range.
Colorado’s Yampa River is one of the last-free flowing rivers in the West and its water has long been eyed by the oil shale industry and by water agencies looking for new sources to tap to feed communities and farms hundreds of miles away. But recently Shell Oil shelved an application to divert water from the Yampa for mining, and a powerful Front Range water utility has put its interest in the Yampa on hold. This has environmentalists looking to seize the moment and drum up support to protect the river.
A new report by a California water think-tank reveals that water users in the seven-state Colorado River basin are getting more efficient and consuming less water. But the study by the Pacific Institute also notes that in the long-term, demand will still out-strip supply in the arid region.