55% of Coloradans fear state won’t have enough water in 100 years, poll shows

Homes near the Ironbridge Golf Club north of Carbondale, Colorado, is pictured on Sept. 4, 2021. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

A majority of Coloradans believe the state will face significant water shortages within the next century, a poll released Monday found.

Conducted earlier this month by Morning Consult on behalf of the Walton Family Foundation, the poll surveyed about 300 registered voters in Colorado, among 2,000 respondents nationally. It found that Coloradans are more concerned on average about the threat of climate change than voters nationwide, with 57% agreeing that rising global temperatures are “having a massive impact on my community,” and 55% worrying that the state won’t “have enough water to meet its needs in 100 years.”

“It’s shocking that more than half of the residents in Colorado don’t think there will be enough water in their home state for their grandchildren to live out their lives,” Moira Mcdonald, environment program director for the Walton Family Foundation, said in a statement. “The Colorado River Basin is living through a historic drought fueled by climate change, and this poll shows there is urgency and unity among all voters to meet these challenges head-on. This is a time for bold leadership.”

The poll’s release comes a week after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that Lake Powell, a key Colorado River reservoir along the Utah-Arizona border, dropped to its lowest level since it was filled in 1980. Years of declining flows have led to a complex series of negotiations over usage rights and management strategies between the seven states that rely on the Colorado River, collectively supplying water to over 40 million people.

A study released earlier this year concluded that the “megadrought” that has gripped the basin since 2000 is the worst dry spell the region has experienced in at least 1,200 years, and nearly half of the drought’s severity is due to higher temperatures driven by human-caused climate change.

Rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have caused parts of Colorado — especially areas on the Western Slope — to warm by an annual average of 4 degrees Fahrenheit or more above pre-1900 levels, temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show.

The Walton Family Foundation’s poll found that 65% of Colorado voters believe that governments “need stricter regulations in place to limit the impacts of climate change,” a position shared by 67% of voters nationwide. Plans for significant climate legislation by Democrats in Congress, however, remain stalled amid opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

The poll was released ahead of World Water Day, a U.N. event observed annually on March 22. The Walton Family Foundation, launched by heirs of Walmart founder Sam Walton, has donated tens of millions of dollars to nonprofits promoting water conservation in the Colorado River Basin in recent years.