Inaugural water symposium focused on future of Colorado’s water supply

Samantha Fox

DENVER — It’s rare for people to think about solutions to a problem before it is a problem.But there is a sector of people in Colorado who have started to look at Colorado’s water supply and how to plan for the future.

That’s why the Colorado State University Colorado Water Institute was established, and will be the first to make the new National Western Complex its home.

On the first day of the inaugural Water in the West Symposium on April 26 in Denver, there was a lot of talk surrounding what already is being done when it comes to conserving the water needed by agriculture, cities and businesses, alike.

One of the panels included a mix of city, business, oil and gas and agriculture leaders.

They each shared why water is not just important to them, but how their industries attempt to save as much water as they can.


Colorado Department of Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown talked about irrigation and how it’s used by the agriculture industry to increase crop yields.

He said conservation in agriculture means a few different things.

“Usually it means use less, but in agriculture it also means more crop per drop,” he said.

One example he gave was with corn farming. He said dryland can produce an average of 62.5 bushels per acre of corn compared to an average of 188 bushels per acre on irrigated farms.

But for agriculture, it’s not simply a matter or irrigated versus dryland farming. How agriculture communities get the water is extremely important, too.

Colorado has two of the top 25 agriculture counties in the nation. No. 9 is Weld County and No. 24 is Yuma County.

The common factor: water.

Weld County is in the South Platte River Basin and Yuma is within the Ogallala Aquifer region.

Weld County is home to one of Leprino Foods’ facilities. Mike Reidy, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Leprino, said that when the company was looking for a location they were looking for access to dairies and raw and waste water.

“We bring in a lot of raw water, which is where we got into some wonderful conversations with the city of Greeley,” Reidy said.

He said the company strives to use best practices. They’re close to the city’s waste treatment plant and will treat the water for reuse after it is used at the facility.

But there’s still more work to do.


Brad Udall, senior water and climate research scientist for the Colorado Water Institute, pointed to climate change in the conversation about future water supplies.

“Climate change is water change,” he said.

If you took out the 20th century, he said, the world wouldn’t see the water level declines we are seeing now.

Udall said we’re going to see larger floods because there’s 5 percent more atmospheric moisture.

And now, he said, we’re already seeing the repercussions from climate change in fires.

He said in the 20th century there were 100,000-200,000 acres of land burned.

Now, only 17 years into the 21st century, there already have been 250,000 acres burned.

But, at the end of the day, he said, it comes back to water, how it’s used and how the climate around water affects the resource.

“This is a topic people in our society don’t like to hear about,” he said. ❖

— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at (970) 392-4410, or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.