In the next few weeks, federal regulators will decide whether the Upper Colorado River needs additional protections in the face of growing demands from thirsty Front Range towns. Which is why hikers, rafters, anglers, and people interested in the economic future of Grand County will be gathering outside the EPA building in downtown Denver on Thursday.
As noted in previous posts, the arrival of millions of new residents along the Front Range over the next forty years is expected to boost water demands more than 50 percent above the currently available supply. That's prompted a number of grandiose water diversion proposals, including Aaron Million's plan for a $7-billion, 550-mile pipeline from the Green River in southwest Wyoming.
But the more immediate threat has to do with the dwindling Upper Colorado, which already sees more than half of its flow sucked away to Front Range communities, mostly for landscaping purposes. The Windy Gap Firming Project, an effort to direct more water through a diversion system initially launched in 1985, could reduce the river's flow even further, down to about 20 percent of its pre-dammed volume.
An environmental impact statement prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sees no major hurdles in proceeding with the project. But environmentalists say the further depletion of the river will alter the temperature, kill fish and insects that a healthy river needs, increase sediment -- and generally trash the tourism business for folks in places like Fraser and Granby.
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River defenders contend that the Front Range and the whole river system would be better served by smaller and smarter projects, enhanced mitigation efforts, more conservation, and so on. For a list of threats and solutions, and to access an online petition on the issue, check out the Colorado Headwaters Initiative.
Thursday's rally begins at noon outside the EPA regional headquarters, 1595 Wynkoop Street. Speakers include Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, and Kirk Deeter, editor-at-large of Field and Stream .
More from our Business archive: "Fracking: Polluted water in Wyoming could spell trouble in Colorado."