Bureau of Reclamation - Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study (2010 - 2012) was focused on defining current and future imbalances between water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin and surrounding areas, with plans to develop and analyze adaptation and mitigation strategies in an effort to resolve these imbalances. The Study recognizes that climate change and future climate variability will introduce uncertainty into water supply analysis. Its researchers developed their scenarios to account for this uncertainty.

The Colorado River is one of the most critical sources of water in the Western United States. The River and its tributaries provide water to over 30 million people for municipal use, supply water to irrigate nearly 4 million acres of land, and are the lifeblood for at least 15 Native American tribes, 7 National Wildlife Refuges, 4 National Recreation Areas, and 11 National Parks.

The Study contains four major phases:

  • Water Supply Assessment: Researchers quantified and analyzed four water supply scenarios. These scenarios are based on information from three sources: the observed historical streamflow record, the paleoreconstructed streamflow record, and projections of streamflow using future climate projections from GCMs. Water supply projections were created for each scenario.
  • Water Demand Assessment: The most critical uncertainties affecting future demand were identified during the scenario planning process (e.g., changes in population and water use efficiency).
  • System Reliability Analysis: System reliability metrics, indications of the Colorado River System's ability to meet the needs of Basin resources under multiple future conditions, were developed. Metrics will be used to measure the potential impacts to River resources resulting from future supply and demand imbalances, and to measure the effectiveness of strategies to address those imbalances.
  • Development and Evaluation of Opportunities for Balancing Supply and Demand.


Publication Date: December 2012

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  • Assessment


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