Colorado River Basin Facing Challenges To Its Ability To Meet Growing Water Demands

Key Water Users Explore Innovative Solutions, Policies to Achieve Positive Results

Mar 14, 2016, 16:30 ET from CoBank

DENVER, March 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division in partnership with the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (CFWE) today released a new report on the Colorado River and the risks and challenges posed by drought, diminished streamflows and over-allocation for the seven U.S. states and two Mexican states that make up the Colorado River Basin.

The report, "Managing the Colorado River in the 21st Century: Shared Risks and Collaborative Solutions," is the second in a three-part series that explores water development and allocation challenges throughout the West and discusses the adaptive strategies and policies that key water users are implementing to manage the worsening scarcity.  

"Water scarcity issues connected with the Colorado River Basin are developing much faster than modern-day water planners ever imagined," said Leonard Sahling, vice president of CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division. "For farmers and ranchers as well as businesses in metropolitan areas within the basin, there is little question that this is a defining moment in the management of the river's resources."

The Colorado River Basin is amidst a 16-year drought, believed to be the worst in 1,200 years and showing no sign of easing. Water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead – filled nearly to the brim in 2000 – are continuing to fall, jeopardizing their ability to provide water to cities and farms as well as to generate power and support recreational economies worth billions of dollars.

"The Colorado River is a critical resource for the tens of millions of people who live, play and work in the basin," says Kristin Maharg, programs director for CFWE. "We need to ensure not only the long-term sustainability of the water supplied by the Colorado River, but also the health of the river itself."  

The report notes that to address the lower basin's structural deficit, as well as the likelihood of increasing demands on diminishing supplies basin-wide, the cities, farmers and ranchers and other water users who share the river are working on collaborative solutions to reduce water use, share the risks of contracted flows, and find innovative river management tools.   

For a copy of the report, please visit CFWE's website at

This is the second report in a three-part research series focused on water issues in the West. The first report explored water scarcity in Colorado and potential solutions to sustain groundwater aquifers that can support agriculture and municipal water demand for the long term. The third report, planned for release in June 2016, will explore California's groundwater challenges and opportunities and will be prepared in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation in California.

About Colorado Foundation for Water Education

The mission of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education is to promote better understanding of Colorado's water resources and issues by providing balanced and accurate information and education. 

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education (CFWE) offers publications, workshops, leadership programs, tours, conferences, and other purposeful programming to convene and educate Coloradans. CFWE hopes that Coloradans, through an improved understanding of water's complexities and trade-offs, will make more informed water resource decisions. 

For more information about the CFWE, visit

About CoBank

CoBank is a $117 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 75,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture and the nation's rural economy.

Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.

For more information about CoBank, visit the bank's web site at