Look what the wind blew in – On October 30, 2011 the world population hit a projected 7 billion people. Wow! For most of us 7 billion is unimaginable. So let’s put it into some context that seems a bit closer to home. There are about 5 million people here in the state of Colorado. Colorado’s population is projected to double to between 8.6 and 10 million people by 2050.
I am not trying to be a fatalist, but this is a resource demand I am not sure we really understand. We here in the San Luis Valley are currently feeling this resource demand due to the decline in our aquifers and the restrictions that this will place on our farming lifestyles. Rightfully so. We are all injured in one respect or another by what has happened or will happen here. We need to fix the situation and I do not think there is anyone who feels that a million acre feet decline in our aquifer is an acceptable, let alone sustainable situation. To that end there is a bigger lion on the horizon.
Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) is a report from the Colorado Water Conservation Board that been analyzing the difference between our supply and our “demands” (notice I don’t say needs). The report looks out over this time period between now and the 2050 and has fondly called the difference between the supply and the demand the GAP. For most of us in rural place because of our farming areas it is a gap, but looking closely at the demand being asked by the urban centers of the Front Range it is much more of a canyon and I assure you it makes the future of Colorado’s open space and agriculture look dim.
There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind about these numbers they are based on medium demands in all areas at a 100% success rate of all proposed water projects and programs.
The bottom line is that the population growth will cause municipal water demands to double. We have no new supply; unfortunately we can’t make more water. We can only use the tools we have available that is conservation – That means every one not just us farmers and ranchers, but golf courses, lawn sizes, medians, water efficient plants in our urbanscapes, along with water efficient appliances and utilities. It means investment in Water Projects and Processes that last and are true investments in infrastructure. It also means defining supply, so that uses can be studied and “new” water supply plans can be defined. Finally, it is the recognition that Ag Water doesn’t become the main GAP supplier, but the GAP survivor and remains the vital part of the infrastructure that it is today; meeting both consumptive and non-consumptive needs well beyond 2050.
Let’s all work together to meet Colorado’s future water needs in a sustainable way. We face a challenge: providing future generations with enough water.