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A Thirsty New Year for Colorado

According to a November 6th Colorado Sun article, 25% of the state is in exceptional drought status, with all the state in some degree of drought. Recent snowstorms have provided some relief, though water issues continue to plague Colorado and most of the Southwest. The West is facing a daunting future as the Colorado River Basin, that provides water for millions, is drying up. How can we protect and manage this vital resource? As I’ve written before, roughly 11% of the flow reduction over the last century has been due to climate change. “The impact of warming on the West’s river flows, soils, and forests is now unequivocal,” writes Brad Udall, Senior Water and Climate Scientist at the Colorado Water Center. Udall goes on to say “There is a clear longer-term trend toward greater aridification, a trend that only climate action can stop.”

With a projected decline in the Colorado River Basin over the next few decades, there are some stark choices that need to be made, including drastic Climate Action at the State level. One major focus has been to wean electricity production off fossil fuels. Fortunately, we’ve been moving in that direction. There is also a positive trend toward future growth in automobile electrification. Those two factors combined, will result in lower projected long-term demand for fossil fuels. However, the industry aims to make up this decline with increased petrochemical production of everyday products consumed globally. Emerging markets globally will help to sustain this increase as people buy more Petro-chemical based products. In an October 2018 Reuters article, The International Energy Agency predicts plastics and other petrochemical products will drive global oil demand by 2050. A February 2020 market analysis report by Grand View Research projects a compound annual growth rate of 5% in the global petrochemical industry by 2027. Some of the products derived from petrochemicals are tires, detergents, industrial oil, fertilizers, plastics and medical devices. These projections, if met, will be in conflict with State and County goals to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions 50% by 2050. We can help address this issue in three ways.

  1. Personally, reduce petroleum-based product consumption.

  2. Examine investments, particularly in the consumer goods sector, to gauge which companies are most dependent on petroleum for their product sales here and in developing countries.

  3. Encourage US companies to lower their dependence on petrochemicals.

This is one area we can all contribute to securing our valuable water resources. Watch for next months insight that will address the need for green infrastructure. Tom Koehler Sustainable Hiker

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