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Water Planning & Distribution

Water Storage

Click the Fluent Water Facts below to learn more about where your water comes from.


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Meeting water needs in a dry state

As a naturally dry state, Colorado faces a huge challenge in providing water year-round to its users.

Colorado’s mountains provide a natural source of water storage – until spring. Accumulated snowpack melts and runs out of the state very quickly, and dry conditions during most of the year produce little water in rivers during the summer and winter. Historically, many of Colorado’s rivers dried up for extended stretches during late summer and early fall, including the South Platte and the Arkansas.

If water doesn’t fall consistently year-round, then it must be captured in plentiful times and stored for dry times.


Coloradans have used reservoirs to store water since ancient times – the Ancestral Puebloans built reservoirs at Mesa Verde. Farmers on the eastern plains used reservoirs to supply irrigation water for their farms. Today, water in reservoirs is used for multiple beneficial uses, including municipal and industrial use, irrigation, interstate water delivery obligations, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation. Dams and reservoirs can also generate hydroelectric power.

Reservoirs alter the natural flow of rivers. Humans can engineer these flows, reducing them during floods or increasing them during dry conditions. These altered flows, however, also affect water quality, wildlife habitat, and natural stream dynamics.

Can we store water without reservoirs?

Reservoirs are essential for Colorado. They are, however, expensive to build and often controversial, especially because of their environmental impacts. As an alternative, some communities have chosen to store their water underground, pumping water into aquifers. This saves on the space for above-ground storage and reduces water loss due to evaporation. This water must be pumped back up to the surface, however, which takes time and energy.

Water Origin Resources

The Citizen's Guide to Where your Water Comes From explains how weather patterns and aquifers supply the water we use. Learn more about the intricate distribution systems Coloradans have developed to deliver water to our farms and cities.  Flip through the online version or purchase a copy.

Citizen s Guide  4a40f4c93383c

The Citizen's Guide to Colorado's Transbasin Diversions highlights the history, costs and benefits of these controversial water projects, from both an historic and current point of view. Flip through the online version or purchase a copy.

Transbasin Diversions


1750 Humboldt Street, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80218