Guest Commentary: How much is a river worth?

Denver Post
By Drew Peternell
Most Front Range residents don’t realize that much of the water they use comes directly from the streams and rivers of the upper Colorado River basin. A spider-web network of dams and pumps and pipelines delivers water from Western Slope rivers to showerheads and sprinklers in Denver and surrounding areas.

Already the Front Range takes about 60 percent of the water that originates in the upper Colorado River basin, draining Grand County to the point that many of its once pristine streams now run dry.

The damage is severe. State biologists have recorded alarming declines in fish, insects and aquatic life. In late summer, dozens of clear streams like Jim Creek are reduced to rust-tinted trickles.

And now, Front Range water providers are planning to bleed the Colorado River some more.

Two proposed water-diversion projects — Denver Water’s Moffat Tunnel expansion project and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap firming project — threaten to push the Colorado and Fraser Rivers and their tributaries past the tipping point. Combined, the projects could leave as little as 25 percent of native upper Colorado River water on the Western Slope.

The rivers and streams of the upper Colorado basin are in critical condition. Unless we act now to protect them from future diversions, they could be flat-lined.

Read more: Guest Commentary: How much is a river worth? – The Denver Post

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