Improved Future for Colorado’s Water Supply Outlined in Water Plan

May 15, 2023

Aerial view of the Town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Photo credit:

From the snowcapped mountains to the flowing rivers, water is one of Colorado’s most vital resources, especially for the state’s agriculture industry. Increasingly, the water supply is at risk, thanks to challenges presented by population growth, climate change, major wildfires and drought.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) exists to conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water supply, and its 2023 Colorado Water Plan presents a variety of actions to do so – calling on all Coloradans to be part of the solution.

“The 2023 Colorado Water Plan is the result of several years of meaningful engagement and co-creation with water users in Colorado,” says Russ Sands, Water Supply Planning Section Chief for CWCB. “It sets a strong foundation for collaboration on the state’s important water challenges.”

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The first edition of the Water Plan was published in 2015. The 2023 plan builds off its original framework, with updates that provide a clearer blueprint on actions that Coloradans can take to do their part in conserving water.

Colorado Water Conservation Board; Colorado Water Plan
The Colorado Water Conservation Board is working to conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water supply. Photo credit: CSWCB

The Water Plan describes current challenges around water conservation and supply, then presents proposed partner and agency actions to help mitigate them, including opportunities through the Water Plan Grant Program.

In fact, it features more than 50 examples of projects and initiatives that can happen at the grassroots level to protect Colorado’s water supply – giving people ideas for the perfect starting point.

The CWCB are stewards of the plan, but they rely on partners to help carry out the goals, including federal, state and local governments, as well as Colorado tribes and other state entities.

The Water Plan includes four key action areas, including Vibrant Communities, Thriving Watersheds, Resilient Planning and, finally, Robust Agriculture.

“We’re excited for all Coloradans who have innovative solutions to come forward with their project ideas.”

– Nora Flynn, Senior Agricultural Specialist for CWCB

In Colorado, the agriculture sector uses approximately 90% of the state’s water, and about 17% of it is sourced from groundwater.

Moving forward, innovations are needed around water supply to help sustain irrigated agriculture and increase its profitability while simultaneously stretching available water supplies.

The Water Plan supports many issues related to cities, streams and people, including significant support for what the plan calls “Robust Agriculture.” This includes actions that emphasize support for peer-to-peer learning between farmers and ranchers, facilitate collaborative water-sharing agreements, and integrate soil health, water conservation and other adaptive practices that increase economic outputs with less water use.

Additionally, partner actions include storage that helps with augmentation plans, rehabilitation of aging of agricultural storage facilities, and on-farm efficiency improvements.

Cattle ranch in Colorado
Photo credit: Zerbe

One of the best ways Coloradans can help achieve these goals is through the Water Plan Grant Program.

“The Water Plan Grant Program is key to making progress on the goals and actions within the Colorado Water Plan,” says Nora Flynn, Senior Agricultural Specialist for CWCB. “We’re excited for all Coloradans who have innovative solutions to come forward with their project ideas.”

Both government and private entities can apply for a grant in one of several categories, including agricultural projects that support the Water Plan.

One past project included the Colorado Master Irrigator program, which teaches farmers and farm managers in the High Plains Aquifer region irrigation management practices that contribute to conservation and are more efficient.

You can learn about past projects and how to apply for a grant at colorado-water-plan-grants. Read the full 2023 Water Plan at cwcb.

See more: Colorado’s Water Project Loan Program Celebrates Many Successes