Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Douglas S. Kenney

Second Advisor

Kristen Averyt

Third Advisor

Benjamin Hale

Abstract

The central challenge facing municipal and industrial water providers is to continuously provide safe and reliable supplies of water that meet the demands of users. Two primary forces are converging on the American West, and on Colorado’s Front Range especially, that make it increasingly difficult for municipal and industrial providers to continue to meet that central challenge: (1) population growth and the presumed accompanying increase in demand, and (2) uncertainties over the physical and legal availability of water stemming from climate variability and change. Multiple approaches can be used to mitigate the impacts of and adapt to these conflating forces, a combination of which are often applied by individual utilities in Colorado; however, they are typically designed and implemented as discrete efforts across a mosaic of jurisdictional boundaries, potentially resulting in suboptimal system performance and inequitable social and ecological impacts. Through poly‐centric case study analysis of municipal and industrial water provider institutions in Nevada, California, and Colorado, this document seeks to understand the extent to which the degree of fragmentation observed on the Front Range may pose challenges for effective adaptation to climate change and complicate the management of the region’s expected population growth. Questions of resilience and institutional design are addressed, with theory supporting the hypothesis that cooperation and integration can be selected for in the arid West by prevailing social and ecological pressures. The question arises from cases, then, whether there exist institutional arrangements that could better facilitate water resource management on the Front Range and, specifically, how regional integration among water providers might be improved under conditions of a changing climate and growing population.

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