The Role of Water in Our Lives:
The role of the Colorado River and to life on the Western Slope is influenced by how all of us use water in our daily life.
Water is the backbone of Western slope agriculture. Almost every crop grown in the naturally desert climate of Western Colorado relies on irrigation water.
This water comes from our rivers and streams to generate productive farmland. Agriculture is the largest West Slope user of Colorado River water, using over 90 percent of the Western Slope’s diversions for crops such as wheat, corn, hay, vegetables and fruits as well as for cattle and sheep. Agricultural fields also provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
The most precious resource in Western Colorado comes from your faucet, shower and hose, accounting for less than 2 percent of the water used on the Western Slope.
One hundred years ago, the average person used only about 5 gallons of water per day. With the availability of treated water today, people use 40 to 70 gallons of treated water daily.
The treated water used in our homes comes from the Colorado River or its tributaries. Some of it is supplied from high elevation reservoirs, and some comes directly from the Colorado River. All of it originates from melting snow or rainfall that flows into the Colorado River.
ANIMALS AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Water is an important key for our beautiful Western Colorado natural environment. Proper water management of streams, rivers and reservoirs has created natural habitats for many plants and animals.
Riparian habitats such as rivers, river banks, reservoirs and wetlands provide habitat, water and food sources for 90 percent of the fish and wildlife on the Western Slope. This is made possible by legally protected in-stream flow water rights.
Whether it be agricultural fields or Mountain wild flowers, Western Colorado scenery is enhanced by water and irrigation.
Hydroelectric power, which is generated by water as it passes through turbines in a dam such as the Wayne N. Aspinall Unit, of Blue Mesa, Crystal and Morrow Point Reservoirs, is clean, non-polluting energy. It is a renewable source of energy which supplies electricity for much of the state.
Part of the valuable and attractive benefits of man-made reservoirs are recreational opportunities, such as watercraft sports, fishing and swimming. Managed releases of water from 2,000 reservoir dams into over 9,000 miles of streams in Colorado create ideal trout habitat. Most of the Western Slope’s Gold Medal Trout Streams are located immediately below reservoirs.
The Colorado River and its tributaries are recognized around the world as kayaking and whitewater rafting destinations. Winter recreational opportunities also benefit from water in the form of snowmaking for our ski areas.