Sustainability in the Upper Colorado River Basin: A Struggle Between Water Resource Use and Remnants of the Natural Ecosystem

Date of Award


Document Type

Capstone Project


Environmental Policy & Mgmt

Degree Name

Master of Applied Science


Environmental Policy & Mgmt


Harold Tyus


Colorado Compact; Colorado River; Endangered Species Act; Sustainability; Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program; Upper Colorado River Basin; Upper Colorado River Compact; Water Resource Management


This study evaluated whether development of the Colorado River system has exceeded sustainability by comparing the trends in water use in the Colorado River. Two sustainable areas were identified in the upper basin and one in the lower-- the mainstream Colorado River, Green and Yampa rivers, and the Little Colorado River. These areas are also high priority recovery areas for four endangered fishes and protected by critical habitat provisions of the ESA. Unfortunately, the endangered fishes are declining because of habitat destruction and non-native species. If increasing water demand causes the fishes to go extinct the few sustainable areas will be lost. It will take careful management of the endangered fishes and water users to ensure these areas are maintained.

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