2012 Colorado River Basin Study

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Reclamation's Upper Colorado and Lower Colorado regions, in collaboration with representatives of the seven Colorado River Basin States, submitted a Proposal in June 2009 to fund the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study under Reclamation's Basin Study Program. In September 2009, the Colorado River Basin Study was selected for funding.

The Basin Study, completed in December 2012, characterized current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin and the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water for the next 50 years, and developed and analyzed adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances. The Study confirmed that there are likely to be significant shortfalls between projected water supplies and demands in the Colorado River Basin in the coming decades.

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The Basin Study also assessed the risks to Basin resources, including water allocations and deliveries consistent with the apportionments under the Law of the River; hydroelectric power generation; recreation; fish, wildlife, and their habitats (including candidate, threatened, and endangered species); water quality including salinity; flow- and water-dependent ecological systems; and flood control.

The Basin Study is notable, among other reasons, for being the first Reclamation study of the Colorado River to quantify the potential future impacts of climate change on water supply and demand. It also used a scenario planning approach to analyze and evaluate options for addressing future imbalances in water supply.

  • The final Basin Study reports are organized into three major parts: an Executive Summary (34 pp.), a Study Report (95 pp.), and seven technical reports, most of which have multiple appendices.

Moving Forward (Phase 1) report

In the wake of the Basin Study, the Department of the Interior and Reclamation convened key stakeholders representing the Basin States, Tribes, and the conservation community to discuss the future of the basin, and identify actions to address the projected supply and demand imbalances outlined in the Basin Study. This collaborative effort, known as Moving Forward, resulted in a 2015 report, entitled "Colorado River Basin Stakeholders Moving Forward to Address Challenges Identified in the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study", or the Phase 1 Report.