From Fort Collins, Colorado to Tucson, Arizona, the Colorado River provides water for human populations in the Southwest U.S. Overall, about 30 million people depend on the River and its tributaries for drinking, showering, washing clothes, watering lawns, and filling swimming pools. Businesses up and down the basin – including breweries, refineries, clothing makers, and thousands more – also depend on Colorado River water to make products and help create a profit. The River’s water is tunneled thorugh mountain ranges, channeled through deserts, and piped hundreds of miles from its origin to meet human demands and spin turbines to generate power.
Water conservation is one of the biggest challenges facing cities in the Colorado River basin. Much of the River’s water is used haphazardly – growing bluegrass in the desert; wasted inefficiently in indoor appliances; and evaporating as it lays in reservoirs, irrigation ditches, and swimming pools. On this last note, over 10% of the entire flow of the Colorado River – 500 billion gallons – evaporates in reservoirs. In fact, more Colorado River water evaporates from the two large reservoirs – Mead and Powell – than is used by the entire Front Range of Colorado. People use vast amounts of water, and people have corresponding opportunities to use that water more efficiently.