What’s Colorado’s water future? | VailDaily.com

What’s Colorado’s water future?

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – Front Range water users are predicting denser housing, high water prices and more conservation as they deal with looming water shortages.

The new Front Range Water Council, a coalition of cities and water districts, also believes the Front Range will have to team with western Colorado on at least one major water project to supply both sides of the Continental Divide.

The group presented its vision of Colorado’s water future to Western Slope water managers at a regional water conference Friday in Grand Junction. Denver and other communities on the east side of the Continental Divide get much of their water from the West Slope.

“We know there is a better way to do things,” said Eric Wilkinson, manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, whose customers includes Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley.

Mark Pifher, manager of Aurora Water, said a water tap for a single-family home in Aurora costs $28,000, several thousand dollars higher than five years ago. He said prices like that will become the norm.

“You’re going to see more water conservation,” Pifher said. “You’re going to see mandatory efficiency devices and you’re going to see ‘full cost’ water.”

Pifher said he also expects city planners and councils to support higher density housing, reducing lawn sizes. “As costs escalate, people are going to rethink where they want to live and how much water they want to use,” he said.

Cities will likely share water systems instead of insisting that everything remain separate, water managers said.

Wilkinson said it might be time to rethink how much water is allocated for maintaining fisheries and recreation. As water supplies tighten, he said it will be important that cities use those supplies at least temporarily, particularly during droughts.

Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River District on the Western Slope, said Colorado should be careful developing the state’s remaining supplies, giving a small amount to the Front Range, the Western Slope, the environment, and setting some aside for energy development. He said questions about climate change and chronic drought have to be factored in.

“We really don’t know how much water we can develop at a reasonable risk,” Kuhn said “We know we’re reaching our limit on our water resources, so why don’t we start small, see what we can develop and in 30 years or so, re-evaluate where we are.”

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