Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Lisa Dilling, Environmental Studies

Second Advisor

Dale Miller, Environmental Studies

Third Advisor

Douglas Kenney, Colorado Law


Population growth and climate change present water providers with management challenges to maintaining the supply, affordability, and reliability of water resources. In the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern Water), population growth poses a 110,000 acre-feet supply-demand gap by the year 2050. Moreover, climatic shifts will simultaneously shift the timing, type, and distribution of expected precipitation. Predict-and-control strategies and traditional agricultural-municipal water transfers are not well-suited to manage water resources in a future dominated by uncertainties. This thesis proposes an adaptive management strategy for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern Water). It presents a novel approach to water management through the development of available management alternatives—alternative water transfers, water firming projects, conservation methods, and graywater reuse— the selection of quantitative and qualitative evaluative criteria, and the analysis of outcomes through the Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) and Multiple Attribute Utility Theory (MAUT) matrix processes. The results highlight conservation as the primary strategy for a developing a baseline water supply, but suggest that multiple alternatives must be implemented to address the supply-demand gap. The integration of an extensive regional study and literature review create a strong collective vision for decision-makers and potentially even stakeholders, placing Northern Water and other water entities in a position to better pursue systematic transformations to address resource challenges.