Tilting the table of Colorado’s water geography

Some 75 percent or more of Colorado’s precipitation falls west of the Continental Divide, and 88 percent of the population lives east to the east. The native flows—before diversions—are shown in this flow chart, but not the diversions.

Some 75 percent or more of Colorado’s precipitation falls west of the Continental Divide, and 88 percent of the population lives to the east. The native flows—before diversions—are shown in this flow chart.

Measuring the water that crosses the Great Divide

Transmountain diversions from Colorado’s Western Slope to cities and farms east of the Continental Divide range from 450,000 to 600,000 acre-feet a year

How much water is that? It represents just 4.8 percent to 6.9 percent of all waters from the Western Slope, including not just the Colorado River but tributaries whose waters flow into the river outside Colorado: the Yampa, the Dolores and San Miguel, the Animas, and the San Juan.

But on the main stream of the Colorado River, upstream from Grand Junction (and excluding the Gunnison), the dent is much more severe. Half of all water available for consumption is taken from the basin in diversions ranging from Grand Lake to Aspen.

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About Allen Best

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
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