How much water does the Colorado really have?

Compare and contrast. Tim Barnett, in this morning’s Albuquerque Journal:

The Colorado River won’t have enough water to meet the West’s needs at least three out of every five years by mid-century if we do not move now to reduce our usage, according to a new study being published this week.

“Current conditions are unsustainable,” said Tim Barnett, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

Speaking in Fort Collins, Aaron Million, who’s trying a major Front Range water transfer:

Million said his graduate thesis work at Colorado State University four years ago showed there’s a surplus of water in the Colorado River system, and his project is the fruit of efforts to get at it.

“We’ve been looking at ways to bring an environmentally sound, new water resource into the state,” he said.


  1. All,
    I am trying to track down real numbers for ‘How much potable or non-potable water does X have?’

    I have a few colleagues at USGS who may know part of the answer.

    Apparently, the question has not been of high enough priority that government agencies were willing to fund finding an answer. Maybe they will be willing to determine an answer soon.

    Once you know how much water there is the next question is who owns it. Court battles for decades will decide that one.

  2. I am sure that someone who wants to make a transfer would want to claim that there’s enough TO transfer.

    OTOH, we should switch to percentage allocations based on flows @ Lee’s Ferry (isn’t that the place) — NO MORE AF “rights” please!

  3. Eric:
    How much water? Surface, ground or both? How much today or in six months from now? You will never get a true answer. Expect to get a best guess with the facts that we have at this time. The problem is that guesses are made on limited data. Gaging sites cost about $5k/yr to operate. Government funding is tight unless the subject is homeland security related. Where do we start?

    If not Lee’s ferry – where? Or was it your way of saying to scrap the Compact and go to an open market model?

    Tim Barnett:
    You’re right, of course. At our present consumption rate, the river will come up short. I guess that some farmer in the Imperial Valley will have to limit his seven yearly cuts of Alfalfa down to five. I’ll throw another brick into the toilet tank and a water park in Phoenix will be shutdown.

    Aaron Million:
    No surplus exists today. You should get Billy Mays to pitch your ideas to the populace. A good place to start is in Wyoming.


  4. Delbert,
    On where do we start, a standard answer is to calculate ROI for various starting points and do the most promising. The Return on Investment for continuing the status quo appears to be strongly negative (unsustainable at best).

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