Colorado

River Stakeholders

Colorado's Colorado River Water Use Highlights:

Colorado's Colorado River Water Use:

From the 2023 Annual Report – View Full Report Here ⟶

Like the other states in the Colorado River Basin, Colorado was fortunate to receive above- average precipitation and water supplies in 2023.

A string of winter storms brought much-needed moisture to locations throughout the Colorado River Basin and its tributaries, providing the region with a brief reprieve after years of below- normal conditions and allowing reservoirs to recover from lower levels in 2021 and 2022.

“While we never fully know what the future may hold, so far Water Year 2023 has been a welcome reprieve from the previous three years with above normal snowpack, precipitation and streamflow runoff across much of the state,” according to a June 1 report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The snowstorms of spring transformed into summer rainstorms that continued to help river conditions throughout 2023. That moisture also helped to limit the ignition of wildfires that have had such a major effect on the watershed.

The region continues to face the long-term challenges of climate change-induced aridification, however, with much of the state returning to drought conditions as of October 2023.

On the policy front, Colorado was active in 2023.

In January, the Colorado Water Conservation Board approved its update to the Colorado Water Plan. The plan serves as a framework for collaborative efforts to address planning and was created through extensive input from stakeholders throughout the state. The update to the original 2015 Colorado Water Plan includes four main focus areas, according to the Colorado Water Conservation Board: Vibrant Communities, Robust Agriculture, Thriving Watersheds and Resilient Planning.

The Colorado Water Plan is available for download at cwcb.colorado.gov/colorado-water-plan.

In addition, the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation in 2023, signed by the governor into law, to create a Colorado River Drought Task Force. The task force met starting in July to provide recommendations to the General Assembly for “programs to assist in addressing drought in the Colorado River Basin and the state’s interstate commitments related to the Colorado River and its tributaries.” Recommendations will be referred to the 2024 session of the Colorado General Assembly.

Several projects affecting the Colorado River made significant progress in 2023.

In the Upper Colorado River Basin, construction crews neared completion of the Colorado River Connectivity Channel, a channel that will divert water from the Colorado River around Windy Gap Reservoir near Granby, move the water in a river- like channel around the reservoir and return it to the Colorado River below the Windy Gap Dam. It will allow the passage of fish and macroinvertebrates from above and below the reservoir and will allow the transportation of sediments around the reservoir as well. This long-sought project, part of the construction program for the Windy Gap Firming Project, will be substantially complete in 2024.

In 2023, a project to bring high-quality water from the Colorado River Basin to communities in the Arkansas River Basin received significant financial support from federal, state and local sources. The Arkansas Valley Conduit will fulfill long-term goals of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project by offering direct delivery, via pipeline, of water from Pueblo Reservoir to communities in southeastern Colorado.

Across Colorado’s Western Slope, water managers benefited from Water Year 2023’s additional moisture, adding flexibility to collaborative reservoir releases from Granby, Green Mountain, Wolford, and Ruedi Reservoirs to benefit important reaches for Colorado’s Endangered Fish and agricultural producers.