Colorado River water consumed yearly for agriculture and by the 30 million Westerners who rely on it now exceeds the total annual flow.
A growing awareness of that limited flow is leading to increased scrutiny of urban development — especially projects that require diverting more water to the east side of the Continental Divide.
“We’re no longer in a surplus situation,” said Bill McDonald, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s deputy commissioner for policy and budget. “The teeter-totter has tipped.”
Federal data show that the average annual use of Colorado River water (15.4 million acre-feet) has surpassed the average annual supply (14.5 million acre-feet) in the river.