Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Nancy Billica

Abstract

Water in the western United States is a controversial topic because of the decreased supplies due to urban and population growth, climatic changes such as drought, and continued disagreements about how existing water supplies should be allocated. The agricultural community in Colorado uses approximately 85% of the existing water supplies and a majority of Colorado’s water is located on the Western Slope. The Eastern Plains and Front Range areas are projected to see the majority of the population and development growth over the next thirty years and water supplies will continue to dwindle as more users demand more water from an already overstressed water shed. With pressure continuing to grow between the agricultural community and urban developments, Colorado is trying to establish new policies that would make sharing water between industries easier by decreasing transaction costs to change in use decrees. This research sets out to uncover what is dividing the agricultural community and what issues are separating them from passing a comprehensive water bill. This research will analyze and report on data from several sources: two surveys from agricultural water users on both sides of the continental divide, interview data from agricultural producers in two north eastern counties, and interview data from members of the Colorado State Legislature that are actively involved in deciding Colorado’s water future. Qualitative research can help multiple interests understand the commonalities and differences between agricultural producers when drafting a comprehensive water bill. The legislation, preferences, and opinions expressed in this research are a first step to creating a more sustainable water future for Colorado.

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