Can Flaming Gorge meet future water needs?

Colorado is facing a significant water shortage.

This conclusion of the state’s water supply planning process was reached by both the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) 2010 and the Basin Roundtables. This process found that significant steps must be taken to meet the state’s growing water needs. Further, it identified key issues that must be addressed to meet the state’s water needs. These include:

* Agricultural water is a top priority and must be protected;

* An adequate and reliable supply of water is a necessity for a strong economy;

* Environmental and recreational uses of water are important to the state’s economy and quality of life.

* A significant gap between supply and demand cannot be met by conservation alone; and

* Development of a mix of water solutions, including reuse, conservation, completion of water projects, and development of new water projects is necessary and desired.
One potential new water project, the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, is being discussed and analyzed for its feasibility. The newly formed Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee is taking a closer look at this pipeline project. Simultaneously to this process, both public and private groups are investigating the potential of the project to meet present and future water demands. The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition, a public organization comprised of water and municipal entities in Colorado and Wyoming that could receive water from the pipeline if it is built, is conducting a feasibility study. A private developer, Aaron Millions, is also examining the project.

The Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee has identified three areas of focus related to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline: explore interests and issues related to a possible Flaming Gorge water supply project; gather and analyze current information about the potential impacts of such a project; and explore what additional work or activities would be needed to address the issues and interests.

The committee itself is a pilot project, created to assess the effectiveness of roundtable-based collaborations to explore water supply projects and issues. While the committee is focused on the Flaming Gorge project, it will also evaluate and track ideas and issues that emerge that can be applied to other potential water supply projects. The committee’s purpose is to gather information and explore ideas. It will not make recommendations about whether or not to build the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition is also analyzing the feasibility of the project. Established in 2010, the coalition is a joint collaboration between Colorado and Wyoming entities. The Colorado entities are: Douglas County, South Metro Water Supply Authority, Parker Water and Sanitation District, Town of Castle Rock and Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. The Wyoming entities are: City of Cheyenne, City of Torrington and Laramie County.

The Feasibility Investigation is funded by the participating entities and is tasked with the following directives:

* Examine the need for the project;

* Identify specific project water yields;

* Identify what portion of Colorado and Wyoming compact entitlements are being sought;

* Identify flow impacts from the project;

* Define water level effects in the reservoir;

* Develop individual costs to each municipal providers;

* Develop financing alternatives; and

* Assess aspects of the feasibility of the project.

The Feasibility Investigation is using information from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Upper Colorado Regional Office (BUREC). BUREC is currently developing a model to define current and future water availability in the Upper Green River Basin based on current operating criteria. These include protecting and assisting in the recovery of endangered fish species and maintaining the authorized purposes of the Flaming Gorge reservoir. Results from the Colorado/Wyoming Coalition’s Feasibility Investigation will be available once BUREC releases its model.

The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition is committed to a transparent examination of the Flaming Gorge Project. The coalition will complete the study, develop information, and engage in discussions with supporters as well as with skeptics and opponents.

Meeting Colorado’s water needs undoubtedly necessitates developing new water projects. The Flaming Gorge Pipeline project appears promising, however there is much work to be done including an objective examination of the project and open discussions among interested parties. Colorado has a robust water supply planning process and it is encouraging that, through this process and through project proponents, potential solutions to Colorado’s water shortage are emerging.

To learn more about the Flaming Gorge Pipeline Project, please visit the Colorado Water Conservation Board at www.cwcb.state.co.us. For more information on Water 2012 in the Rio Grande Basin, please visit www.rgwcei.org. This month, the Water 2012 display will be up at the Blanca-Fort Garland Library, so stop by and check it out. For questions or comments, please contact Leah Opitz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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