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Water in My Life
HOW DO WE USE WATER?
Do you know the role water plays in your life and all of the ways you use water? Every time we use water, each of us is determining what will happen to the Colorado River and to life on the Western Slope.
Here's how .....
GROWING FOOD AGRICULTURAL USE
Eat a peach, use water from the Colorado River. Peach trees, which are grown in orchards in Western Colorado, require irrigation water to grow and produce fruit. Without irrigation water in our arid climate, the peach trees would die.
And peaches aren't the only crop that rely on the Colorado River and its tributaries. Almost every crop grown in Western Colorado relies on irrigation water, which comes from our rivers and streams. Most of the Western Slope is naturally desert-irrigation has turned the dry range land into productive farmland.Water is the backbone of Western Slope agriculture - from the famous Olathe sweet corn to cattle and the alfalfa that they eat.
Agriculture is the largest Western Slope user of Colorado River water, using over 90 percent of the Western Slope's diversions for crops such as wheat, corn, hay, vegetables and fruits as well as for cattle and sheep. Agricultural fields provide wonderful habitat for wildlife. The fields provide food, shade and places to burrow and nest to many types of animals. Some of the animals you might see in or around irrigated fields are a wide variety of birds and animals from deer to rabbits and coyotes.
DRINKING AND BATHING DOMESTIC WATER
Turn on your faucet, your shower or your hose, and there it is - water, the most precious resource in Western Colorado. Today, less than 2 percent of the water used on the Western Slope is used for domestic purposes.
A hundred years ago, before people had running water in their homes,the average person used only about 5 gallons of water a day. Water was harder to come by then -people had to haul water from streams, creek sand rivers to their homes.
Today, since water flows directly into our homes, schools and offices, people use 40 to 70 gallons of treated water a day in their homes for purposes such as drinking,cooking, washing and showering. It is important to remember that water is still a scarce and precious resource in the dry Colorado climate.
The treated water that we use in our homes comes from the Colorado River or its tributaries. Some towns treat water from reservoirs high in the mountains. Others treat water that comes directly from the Colorado River, but it all originates from melting snow and rainfall that would eventually flow into the Colorado River.
PROTECTING ANIMALS AND THE ENVIRONMENT SCENIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL USES
In Western Colorado, we enjoy nature at its very best - and water is the key reason for our beautiful environment. Proper water management of streams, rivers and reservoirs has created natural areas that provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals.
Riparian habitats such as rivers, their banks, reservoirs and wetlands are used by 90 percent of the fish and wildlife on the Western Slope for drinking water, habitat and food sources. Colorado ensures that our fish and wildlife have some of the water they need through legally protected in-stream flow water rights.
An in-stream flow water right is a legal right for water to remain in the stream to protect the natural environment. Flowing streams and rivers also add to the scenic beauty of our land. Western Colorado is more beautiful because of water - from the tiny high mountain streams that provide water for the delicate wildflowers to the powerful rivers that have carved the dramatic canyons of the Colorado National Monument and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Another beautiful scene found throughout Colorado's Western Slope is lush agricultural fields set against dramatic mountains. Whether it is peach trees in the Grand Valley or a ranch set again the San Juans, our scenery is more beautiful because of irrigated fields. As the song states, America is beautiful for its amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty.
Here in Colorado, we see them together because we have water to irrigate the crops. Good water management along the Western Slope's vers and streams has provided us with beautiful scenery and great places to hike, camp, fish, mountain bike and watch wildlife.
CREATING POWER TURNING THE TURBINES
In Western Colorado, some of our electricity is supplied by water. Your lights, microwaves, televisions and more may be powered by the Colorado River.
That's because we rely on hydroelectric power, which is generated by water as it passes through turbines in a dam. Because flowing water provides the energy to create electricity, hydroelectric power does not pollute.
It is a renewable source of energy. One of Western Colorado's major hydroelectric sites is the Wayne N.Aspinall Unit, better known as Blue Mesa, Crystal and Morrow Point Reservoirs.
Located on the Gunnison River, these reservoirs generate hydroelectric power which is sold to cities, towns and rural electrical providers throughout Colorado and other Western states. The Aspinall Units and the Western Slope's about 20 other hydroelectric stations provide a significant amount of power for much of the state.We've all used power created by the Colorado River.
RECREATION THE NEW ECONOMY
Although reservoirs were created to sustain life on the Western Slope by preventing floods and ensuring a year-round supply of drinking and irrigation water, a valuable, and fun, side benefit of reservoirs are the recreational opportunities they provide.
At reservoirs we enjoy water-skiing, jet skiing, sailing, canoeing and boating - not to mention lake fishing and ice fishing. Western Colorado has few naturally occurring large lakes. Recreation sites such as Dillon, Blue Mesa, Wolford Mountain and Taylor Park reservoirs exist because they were created by man.
Our rivers and streams also provide recreational opportunities - including some of the best fishing in the country. Colorado has over 9,000 miles of stream and 2,000 lakes and reservoirs open to fishing. Managed releases of water from dams create ideal trout habitat. Most of the Western Slope's Gold Medal Trout Streams are located immediately below reservoirs.
In spite of the presence of numerous reservoirs, much of the Colorado River and its tributaries feels wild and free and are recognized around the world as kayaking and whitewater rafting destinations. Water also improves our winter recreational opportunities. We enjoy downhill skiing and snowboarding, thanks in part to snow making from tributaries of the Colorado River.