The Colorado River Basin extends into seven states, provides water to almost 40 million people, and supports a $5 billion agricultural industry — yet, the basin recently suffered its 20th year of drought conditions. This historic period has not only affected the lives of the 1 in 10 Americans that rely on the river, but also holds serious implications for the current and future state of agriculture.

Agriculture uses approximately 80% of Colorado’s water withdrawals to irrigate 15% of the nation’s farmland, the equivalent of 6 million acres of farmland. Wheat, corn, berries, fresh produce, and alfalfa (a primary form of cattle feed) are likely to be particularly strained by supply rationing to manage water-stress. The growth in food production to meet the burgeoning population, coupled with human consumption and extreme weather events are?is placing an increasing demand on the basin’s limited supply — and more pressure on local farmers, consumers, and companies to adapt to the region’s water scarcity.

Companies and investors have a unique opportunity to respond to water risks in their operations and supply chains near the Colorado River Basin, advocate for sustainable and resilient water policies, and ensure sustainable management.
 

Colorado River

 

[1] Maupin, Molly, et al.. “Estimates of water use and trends in the Colorado River Basin, Southwestern United States, 1985–2010.” U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), 26 June 2018, https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/sir20185049.

[2, 3,4] Citron, Aaron. “The Colorado River Basin Can't Afford to Leave Farmers out to Dry.” Growing Returns, Environmental Defense Fund, 24 July 2014, http://blogs.edf.org/growingreturns/2014/07/24/the-colorado-river-basin-cant-afford-to-leave-farmers-out-to-dry/.

[5] Zielinski, Sarah. “The Colorado River Runs Dry.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Oct. 2010, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-dry-61427169/.

[6] Morford, Scott. "Salinity in the Colorado River Basin." Education at the Center for Watershed Sciences, University of California, Davis, n.d., https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/education/classes/files/content/page/6%20Morford-Colorado_Basin_Salinity.pdf.

[7] Fleck, John. “What the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Means in Practice.” Jfleck at Inkstain, 21 May 2019, http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/2019/05/what-the-colorado-river-drought-contingency-plan-means-in-practice/.

[8] Runyon, Luke. “Colorado River Managers See A Possible Future And It Doesn't Look Pretty.” KPBS, KPBS Public Media, 29 June 2018, https://www.kpbs.org/news/2018/jun/29/colorado-river-managers-see-possible-future-and-it/.

[9] Wolfshohl, Karl. “Brewing Up Water Savings.” Progressive Farmer, vol. 133, no. 7, June 2018, pp. 16-18, https://www.millercoors.com/sites/millercoors/files/Progressive_Farmer_June_2018.pdf.

[10] “Growing Best Practice in Agriculture.” MolsonCoors, n.d., http://www.molsoncoors.com/en/sustainability/sustainably-brewing/agricultural-supply-chain.

[11] Soko, Kim. “A-B InBev: How a Global Brewer Is Setting the Bar for Innovation in Local Water Conservation.” Sustainable Brands, 9 Nov. 2015, https://sustainablebrands.com/read/leadership/a-b-inbev-how-a-global-brewer-is-setting-the-bar-for-innovation-in-local-water-conservation.