Western Slope urges Front Range water conservation
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – A new billboard near Floyd Hill reminds eastbound drivers on Interstate 70 that the water they use to quench their lawns and wash their cars in Denver is the same water that would otherwise be flowing through rivers on Colorado’s Western Slope.
“It’s the same water. Conserve it!” the billboard reads, across images of lawn sprinklers, a snowy mountain and a woman taking a shower.
The billboard is the first tactic in a new campaign by local governments in northwest Colorado to remind Front Range water users of their impacts to the state’s western rivers.
According to Denver Water, each city slicker and suburbanite uses an average 168 gallons of water each day, 91 gallons of which goes to watering landscaping. And the agency is the first to admit that most of its 1.3 million users rarely think about where that water comes from.
The new campaign, a collaborative effort by the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, hopes to make the connection for folks. More billboards and signs at bus stops will pop up throughout the Denver-metro area in coming months. All the promotional efforts will direct people to a website, http://www.itsthesamewater.com, or a smartphone page where they can learn about where water comes from, the impacts of diversions and how to conserve.
The majority of Denver’s water comes from rivers and streams fed by mountain snowmelt – primarily the South Platte River, Blue River, Williams Fork River and Fraser River watersheds. Dillon Reservoir is Denver Water’s largest storage facility and holds nearly 40 percent of Denver’s water.
Before the agency began diverting water to the eastern side of the Continental Divide, that water from the Blue River and others in the West Slope eventually made its way to the Pacific Ocean via the Colorado River.
Today, Denver Water uses about 265,000 acre-feet of water per year, but it’s looking for more. And that will mean even greater impacts to already-tapped rivers on the Western Slope. As the Denver-metro area continues to grow, Denver Water and other Front Range water providers are moving ahead with efforts to draw more water across the Divide.
Denver Water predicts it will experience a supply shortfall of 34,000 acre-feet per year by 2030, under its current system. It estimates that 16,000 acre-feet of the shortfall will be addressed through conservation, leaving an annual shortage of 18,000 acre-feet.
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