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DailyCamera Letters: Expanded reservoir might never be useful

Jun 26, 2019
By Beverly Kurtz

The Daily Camera editorial printed on June 23 states that flow in the Colorado River could drop more than 35% by the end of the century due to climate change. Quentin Young asserts that Denver Water is correct in considering this possibility justification for increasing storage capacity at Gross Reservoir so that water could be collected during high water events. There are issues with this scenario.

Some studies indicate that the river could drop even more — up to 50% by mid-century. Regardless, Denver Water will not automatically have the right to store any additional water if flows decrease significantly. The fact is, the first 19 years of the 21st century are already among the five driest extended periods in the southwestern United States in the past 1,200 years. The “Colorado River Risk Study” predicts that ongoing aridification (megadrought conditions) could trigger a “compact call,” where the Lower Basin states could force the Upper Basin states (including Colorado) to send water down the Colorado River. Trans-mountain diversions would stop. Then even the current reservoir would not be filled, let alone one three times as large. The analysis indicates that water rights belonging to Front Range cities would bear the brunt of the shortage and “curtailment” of use.

Enlarging Gross Reservoir would not help address this issue in any way. It is not reasonable to assume that if we build it, the water will come. Do the customers of Denver Water really want to pay for an expensive, environmentally destructive dam project that may not even be useful? We need sustainable ways to address future water shortages. Conserve, reuse and recycle must be at the center of any strategic water plans developed for the Front Range. Expanding Gross Dam is not a good solution.

Beverly Kurtz - Boulder

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