Water has always been a point of interest for Coloradans. Our iconic snow-covered mountains and flowing rivers provide a plethora of year-round outdoor recreation and beauty. It is also part of what has drawn so many newcomers here over the past ten years.
As a headwaters state, Colorado provides water to 17 other states and over 5 million Coloradans. That number is growing at a rapid rate, with the population expected to double to 10 million people by 2050. A question we all need to be asking is: What impact will that have on Colorado’s water supply?
The Colorado Water Plan (CWP), the state’s guide to water supply planning to meet future needs, projects a water supply shortfall of more than 500,000 acre-feet annually by 2050. The water supply gap is expanding due to population growth and climate change, coupled with agricultural water reductions, environmental concerns, regulatory process delays, and funding challenges. The next question we need to ask is: How can we solve these critical water issues?
The CWP calls out education as a core component of achieving water sustainability. This can be realized through Colorado’s first Statewide Water Education Action Plan (SWEAP), which strives to improve public awareness and engagement regarding water issues. SWEAP provides a guide for water educators to work together to achieve a set of shared outcomes that align with CWP’sgoal of sustainable water for Colorado by 2050. It facilitates opportunities and resources for water education to reach all local communities. By participating in SWEAP, Coloradans become more informed water citizens, empowered to contribute effectively in decision-making processes. If we want to continue enjoying all the benefits Colorado’s water provides, we must go beyond being just water users and become water stewards to ensure a reliable water future.