You don’t need to stroll Tennyson Street on a First Friday or drive Speer Boulevard at rush hour to know that the secret is out.

The Mile High City and its neighboring communities are some of the best places to live in the country, and the stats tell the story. Our population of downtown residents is projected to increase by 12.6 percent in the next five years (the national average is 3.7 percent). The number of downtown employees has soared 13.2 percent since 2010, one byproduct of the $2.5 billion in public and private investment in projects that are being planned or already under way. And—and!—the overall Front Range population is projected to grow 72 percent between 2010 and 2050, adding more than three million souls to the area.

If you’ve lived here for more than five years, you’re probably getting a little nervous about the housing prices and density, the road-choking traffic, and what gentrification will mean for Denver’s demographic makeup. The good news is that many of those involved with our business, civic, and governmental infrastructures are thinking obsessively about growth—where to house new residents, how we’ll all get from here to there, and how to manage our robust but fragile natural resources. The bad news: No one person or entity has all the answers.

That’s where you come in. We all need to be thinking about these things before this growth overtakes us—as in, right now, because seemingly every week brings a new expansion-related project or policy change. But how? We can show up at neighborhood and urban planning meetings. We can urge our civic leaders to adopt things like design reviews of new construction and infrastructure projects or more cogent policies addressing gentrification and homelessness. We can continue the admirable Front Range tradition of regional cooperation. And perhaps above all, we can resist the not-in-my-backyard impulse to oppose a bike lane, affordable housing project, or transit station that might temporarily inconvenience us but would benefit the community overall. As Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, says, “There’s awareness of all these issues, but I’m not sure there’s enough urgency. It’s go time.”

Big Ideas

Addressing Growth Begins and Ends with Regional Cooperation

Beginning with Mayor Federico Peña’s Imagine a Great City initiatives in the 1980s and boosted by the “Crazy Eight” (a group of economic development pros), a code of ethics was formalized for metro Denver that encouraged sharing economic data and forbade neighboring mayors and city councils from poaching businesses, running ads against one another, or bad-mouthing other communities. “Over several years, any suspicions people had melted away,” says Tom Clark, one of the original eight and now head of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. The Denver metro area has since been lauded nationwide for its regional cooperation, and although there have been some hiccups (see: squabbling between Aurora and Denver over the Gaylord Rockies resort near DIA), this commitment to regionalism should help area expansion run smoother as communities see each other as neighbors rather than competitors.

The Bel Commission’s Goal to Make Everyone Work Smarter

Colorado’s biggest labor problem isn’t jobs; it’s the lack of an appropriately skilled workforce. “The burning issue right now is that area of ‘middle skills,’ which have open jobs that can’t be filled,” says Fiona Arnold, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. (These positions require education or training beyond high school but don’t demand a four-year degree.) U.S. culture has long downplayed vocational training, but in 2015 Governor John Hickenlooper set up the Business Experiential-Learning (BEL) Commission to change that perception locally. The group visited Switzerland, where two-thirds of young adults enroll in vocational training and apprenticeships. The vision for Colorado is a similar work-focused education and training system, to be implemented over the next decade. Fewer students facing obscene college debt burdens will just be a bonus.

New American Localism’s Potential for Funding Large Urban Projects

People are moving to cities in throngs—and thus, says the Brookings Institution think tank, we require a new type of governance. New localism encourages cities to think differently about funding sources. Local governments have already begun to complement federal funding with other resources to complete ambitious projects, such as the public-private partnership (P-3) behind the Union Station redevelopment. Securing private investors makes it easier for governments to find the remaining funds, rather than making quixotic attempts at creating new funding legislation. It also enables cities and states to tackle problems that are unique to them rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Colorado’s culture of regional cooperation—which includes unspoken rules about established companies giving newly arrived entrepreneurs time and advice—gives us a head start on this endeavor.

How Autonomous Vehicles Could Alter Our Entire Transportation System

Less than a decade away from widespread proliferation, self-driving cars will be much more than playthings for the wealthy. A system of driverless taxis, for example, could carry commuters to bus lines that only run along wide streets such as Broadway. A voucher system could be set up to help lower-income folks. Buses could stick to the main arteries rather than snaking their ways around town, thus carrying more people to their destinations faster. Plus, by shifting our transportation mindset, we can more aggressively address the effects of climate change. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, “The cost of mobility [in the United States] could be 80 percent lower than its cost today, unlocking $1 trillion in value for consumers, businesses…and decreasing emissions by one gigaton per year.” That’s about 10 percent of the entire global carbon output in 2014, so going driverless would help us tap the brakes on climate change.

Effects and Tradeoffs

What We Can Expect to Change, from Traffic to Housing

Increased Car Time: According to the Denver Regional Council of Government’s most recent congestion report, 31 percent of regional roadways will be stuffed with traffic for three or more hours per day in 2040—up from 21 percent in 2014. Also by 2040, the average trip will take 36 percent longer at rush hour than at off-peak times—as if you needed another reason to walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation.

Changing Electorate: Demographic estimates say the state’s racial and ethnic minority population will more than double by 2040. Of course, those won’t all be people of voting age, but it’s safe to say politicians will have to continue to adjust to meet the needs of a changing voting base and that Colorado’s purple hue may turn bluer. It should also mean we’ll keep seeing more leaders of color, forming an increasingly diverse state Legislature.

Trampling Our Wilderness: Does our passion for the outdoors mean we’re loving Colorado to death? If we don’t remain vigilant, the sheer volume of people enjoying our wilderness could destroy fragile tundra and disturb wildlife. Popular hiking routes are already getting wider because too many people step off the trails. These consequences will likely speed up with more residents, so stay on the trail and leave the wildlife alone.

Demand On Resources: The Colorado Water Plan, released last year, evaluated demand on our state’s water supply based on various population projections. The low-end projection—low growth combined with current temperatures—would require an additional 600,000 acre-feet of water per year over 2008 levels; that’s an additional 43 Cherry Creek Reservoirs. If the high-impact forecast (which accounts for swelling growth and increased effects of climate change) comes to fruition, we’d need an extra one million acre-feet of water to fill the gap.

Serving An Aging Population: By 2050, the State Demography Office estimates that Colorado will be home to more than one million people age 65 and older. To serve that group we’ll need more health-care workers and senior housing—if they move out of their homes. “The people who are retiring aren’t leaving; they aren’t exiting housing units,” says state demographer Elizabeth Garner. “That’s why we’re seeing so much tightness in housing.” But retiring baby boomers could mean more job openings for all the recently transplanted millennials.

The Adjustments We’ll All Have to Make

If We Want… A bike-friendlier, multimodal city

We Have To Give Up… Some parking

And We Should Because… Bike lanes reduce car traffic and pollution. In some cases, the most feasible option may be knocking out that parking space in front of your house or business—like in Louisville, which removed on-street parking along its main drag and added patios to help create a better experience.

If We Want… A diverse city

We Have To Give Up… Pleasantville-like ideas about how our neighborhoods ought to look

And We Should Because… Welcoming affordable housing to your neighborhood, rather than standing in NIMBY-ish opposition to it, means an increase in Denver’s diversity and allows lower-salaried professionals like teachers and first respond-ers to be able to live here.

If We Want… Varied housing options

We Have To Give Up… Our opposition to density

And We Should Because… Yes, skyscrapers and micro apartments will increase density, but they’ll also lower auto usage and increase walking and biking. Plus: “Transit works best when you’ve got higher-density clusters, and it connects major activity centers,” says Andrew Goetz, professor of geography and the environment at the University of Denver.

If We Want… To conserve water

We Have To Give Up… Some of our grassy lawns and parks

And We Should Because… Our semiarid climate requires too much water to keep our green spaces lush. Other options include zeroscaping (using concrete, stone, or gravel instead of grass) or xeriscaping (using native plants, trees, and creative rock work). These are also easier to maintain.

If We Want… Less traffic

We Have To Give Up… Our aversion to public transportation

And We Should Because… Currently, just 40.6 percent of downtown commuters use public transit—and 38.5 percent drive solo. That needs improvement, but we’re not alone; Seattle has similar numbers to ours. Plus, our highway system, built decades ago, wasn’t designed to handle our current—or future—population.

Coming Up Short

Addressing Our Housing Crisis at All Income Levels


If you own a home along the Front Range, you’re among the lucky ones. Denver metro area real estate still has a historic inventory shortage, and prices have spiked so much recently they’ve begun to trigger fears that we’re headed toward coastal-level costs and/or that the entire region might be experiencing a housing bubble. “This area has a lot going for it and still is much more livable than the Bay Area, but I wonder if we’re heading in the right direction,” says Michael Leccese, executive director of Urban Land Institute (ULI) Colorado.

A primary culprit is the ongoing controversy over Colorado’s construction defects laws. The state Legislature has tried to address these regulations—which make it easier to bring class-action lawsuits against developers—so far to no avail. But some pending court decisions might begin to loosen the gridlock. “Right now, a condo developer has about an 80 percent chance of facing a construction defects lawsuit, and about 40 percent of those cases go to trial,” says Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.’s Tom Clark. “If you want to hold on to all the young people who are moving here, you’d better help them build their fortune, which for most of us means buying a first home.”

Mayor Michael Hancock’s announcement this summer of a $156 million hike in property tax fees over the next decade—an additional charge that would be split about evenly between existing homeowners and developers of new properties—is a start. (Well, kind of: Within a few weeks of unveiling the plan, the city was already considering changes that would lop about $10 million off the proposal.) The new funds would help financially disadvantaged people who have annual incomes of no more than $64,000 for a four-person household. “This fund is a beginning, but we’re still very far away from having an ideal amount of affordable housing,” says Urban Ventures’ Susan Powers, who adds that there have been conversations around creating housing voucher programs and bond issues to address the problem, “but these need commitments from property owners to honor them. It’s a community issue, and every day we don’t build, we lose ground on it.”

Further complicating the affordable housing problem is the dreaded “G word”: gentrification, which replaces less wealthy (and often more diverse) populations with richer (and often whiter) ones. In July, British publication the Guardian claimed Denver “is erasing and rebuilding a shinier, clogged version of itself,” and one study ranked Denver as the seventh city in the country in terms of speed of gentrification. Hancock and his allies have acknowledged the potential problem. “Home ownership gives families a foundation to build equity, build wealth, and build a life,” the mayor said in an email. “[The property tax plan] would create the city’s first permanent dedicated funding stream for affordable housing and create and preserve 6,000 homes for low- and moderate-income families over the first 10 years.” But with the Denver Office of Economic Development having identified 46 neighborhoods at risk of or currently experiencing gentrification, the level of concern remains high. “A lot of people think Mayor Hancock is so pro development that he’s not going to listen,” says Dean Saitta, director of the urban studies program and a professor of anthropology at DU. “I’m not sure a lot of people feel like their voices really matter.”

Growth and gentrification may feel like they go hand in hand, but acknowledging there’s a problem isn’t enough—and sadly, there aren’t any easy answers (for some ideas, see “Expert Opinions”). “In this housing market, older people, some younger people, teachers, cops, and firefighters can’t afford to buy houses,” Clark says. “If we had more properties in the $250,000 range, the people who serve us could live here, and it should be their right to do that.”

Even those whose missions include finding ways to provide more affordable housing agree that there’s no magic bullet. “We need to make deals with the owners of multi-unit, deed-restricted”—essentially, rent-controlled—“buildings to continue to offer affordable units once those restrictions expire,” Powers says. “Everyone knows this is a problem, and most people want to be part of the solution, but no one wants to pay for it.”

Where Will Our Water Come From?

It’s no secret why everyone loves living in Colorado: A 2015 public-opinion survey reported that 89 percent of voting-age Coloradans say a healthy outdoor lifestyle is a primary reason they choose to live in the West. But with so many newcomers arriving all the time and their mere presence crowding or gobbling up those very resources, making sure they remain abundant—in a place where, by law, we share water with six other states and Mexico—is a crucial priority for our economy and our quality of life. “The outdoors and our healthy environment are Colorado’s competitive advantages,” says Pete Maysmith, executive director of the environmental group Conservation Colorado. “We’re projected to almost double our statewide population between 2005 and 2050, so we have to make sure that whether it’s air quality, water, or land use, we’re keeping this region a special place. There has been a lot of growth already, but not all of the newcomers are here yet, so we have the opportunity to get this right.”

Even amid a hostile political culture of climate change deniers and resistance to environmental policy changes, Maysmith remains surprisingly optimistic—to a point. He says the state’s water plan, released last December, set appropriate, achievable conservation goals but that it’s up to Governor John Hickenlooper and subsequent administrations to enforce them. The same goes for creating urban development boundaries that limit sprawl and auto use. He’d also like to see more movement among the citizenry—homeowners and HOAs—away from lush, green lawns toward more water-efficient xeriscaping. “We need our Legislature to follow suit [with laws and codes that support these initiatives],” he says. “All the action is happening at the city and state level.”

Why Denver’s Cell Service Sucks

Denver’s got a problem, and you probably don’t need a nationwide study to tell you what it is: Our cellular service is terrible. For proof (besides those repeatedly dropped calls), see RootMetrics’ latest mobile network performance study that ranks Denver 121 out of 125 metro areas—and even worse when it comes to download speeds. “Digital infrastructure is critical to growth,” says Erik Mitisek, the state’s chief innovation officer. “The communities that have the best access will be the most advanced.”

Unfortunately, our location means performance isn’t likely to improve. “Cities in the Rockies tend to have trouble, particularly with connection and data speeds,” says Annette Hamilton, a director at RootMetrics. Even though the four major carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) are approaching almost 100 percent LTE coverage here, our radio-wave-blocking 14,000-foot mountains are permanent obstructions. Our growth isn’t helping either, because more people means busier networks. In fact, national mobile data traffic is forecasted to surge tenfold by 2021.

There’s no obvious solution, but some companies are trying to help by enhancing service in targeted areas. Illinois-based ExteNet Systems is partnering with four music venues (including the Bluebird Theater and Ogden Theatre) and four high-rise office buildings to provide 4G LTE cellular service,* and GigaMonster is starting to bring its high-speed connections to multifamily communities throughout the metro area. Beyond that, your best bet is to invest in a cell-phone-signal booster for your home. And tell your mom it’s the city’s fault her calls aren’t coming through.

Editor’s Note 10/5/16: We’ve updated this story to reflect that ExteNet Systems improved 4G LTE service, not WiFi infrastructure.

In The Pipeline

The Area’s New Development Projects

Downtown: Fleet of 36 new electric MallRide shuttles—air conditioning included. Projected completion: End of 2016

Courtesy of CH2M and RNL Design

RiNo: Brighton Boulevard Redevelopment Project (including long overdue sidewalks, bike lanes, and on-street parking). Projected completion: 2017 (rendering above)

Courtesy of Denver Parks & Recreation

LoDo: New riverfront plaza at Confluence Park. Projected completion: Fall 2017 (rendering above)

Courtesy of Regional Transportation District

Lone Tree: Southeast light-rail line extension to Lone Tree. Projected completion: 2019 (rendering above)

Denver International Airport: Renovated Great Hall in Jeppesen Terminal. Projected completion: 2019

Denver To Aurora: The controversial and contested Central 70 Project would redo 10 miles of I-70, lower part of it, and incorporate the state’s first highway cover (public space over the road). Projected completion: 2022

Downtown Denver’s Perpetual Facelift

Courtesy of Perkins Eastman

1. A revitalized Civic Center Station (rendering above)—with a glass-enclosed terminal building, nine bus bays, and an open design—is slated for completion by late 2017.

2. A new neighborhood. Arapahoe Square—bordered by Larimer Street, Glenarm Place, 20th Street, and Park Avenue—is transforming from a parking lot graveyard into a developer’s dream, with apartments (including some affordable units), restaurants, offices, and shopping.

3. A face-lift for the 16th Street Mall. Planning is still in its nascent stages as more studies are conducted, but those involved say Denver’s most popular tourist attraction—yes, really—could see everything from the end of the MallRide (in its current form; the city is considering moving the free buses to neighboring streets), a smoking ban, additional patios, and more events to make it a true destination.

4. An excuse to spend even more time outside thanks to Outdoor Downtown, a 20-year master plan to improve, maintain, and provide more activities in our parks and public areas as well as to develop additional athletic facilities. Expect to see some new green spaces as well: The planners want to build them in underserved areas so that every downtown resident is just a five-minute walk away from a neighborhood park.

5. A permanent ice rink could be added to Skyline Park in the next couple of years, though you’d only be able to skate on it in the winter months.

Courtesy of H3 Hardy Collaboration for Denver Arts & Venues

6. A transformed Denver Performing Arts Complex (rendering above), where visitors will want to do more than just catch a show. The daytime ghost town hopes to draw more visitors with a redesigned Sculpture Park—and a 500-seat pavilion for outdoor productions—and the possible addition of a hotel, a school, or both, as well as retail offerings.

Expert Opinions

Simple Ideas to Make Denver Work Better for Everyone: DU’s Dean Saitta has a few suggestions for creating a more multicultural city.

  • Name more parks, roads, and buildings for multicultural figures—like the 1.5-year-old Corky Gonzales Library—and build monuments to honor the history and contributions a variety of cultures have made to the city.
  • Establish varied public gathering spaces (e.g., grassy parks and plazas).
  • Nurture the nonwhite creative class, including educating more minority planners and developers who may move away from monocultural planning models.
  • Schedule public planning meetings on weekends or later in the evenings to allow people with nonflexible jobs to attend—and offer more online methods for people to contribute their opinions.
  • Build more apartment complexes that are conducive to intergenerational living and larger extended families.
  • Encourage cultural facilities and attractions to set up at the edges of diverse neighborhoods to draw in more people from nearby areas.

What Denver’s Getting Right—and Wrong

Our extensive growth has produced intensely differing opinions. Here, experts offer contrasting views in response to common complaints about Denver’s changes.

New architecture is ugly and unimaginative.

Agree: “The design we’ve seen in the past 10 years is not very good, in every city. Formulas are being repeated because of economics. Developers get so much pushback against densification that projects get repeated because they know they can get them approved. It’s dumbing down creativity.” —Mark Johnson, president, Civitas Urban Design & Planning

Disagree: “Booms reflect the architecture of the day; it’s why our skyline looks so ’80s. In time it won’t matter, because these projects will fade into the background when the next boom comes and become part of the city’s architectural diversity.” —Ken Schroeppel, assistant professor of urban and regional planning, University of Colorado Denver

What makes Denver great is its lack of density. I don’t want all these skyscrapers.

Agree: “Parts of Denver—City Park, Highland, and Sunnyside come to mind—might be over-zoned [to increase density]. As we add density, we have to balance that with more public space. It doesn’t need to be a park, but it needs to respect setbacks and have small squares that aren’t all concrete.” —Susan Barnes-Gelt, former City Council member

Disagree: “Denver’s got to stop thinking of itself as a small town and think of itself as a very dense city. Density is key to being able to cope with the masses of people that are moving here.”
—Fiona Arnold, executive director, Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade

Developers aren’t focused on what our citizens want. They’re not maintaining or nurturing Denver’s look and feel, or its cultural diversity.

Agree: “By and large, we’re using a developer-driven, monocultural planning model, and I worry that the consequence of that is a series of gated communities, a city of haves and have-nots.” —Dean Saitta, director of the urban studies program and professor of anthropology, University of Denver

Disagree: “We’re not going to control the speed with which development occurs. Had we not created Blueprint Denver, the development we’ve seen over the last 20 years would have been spread across our city, and we would be unrecognizable. The development we’ve seen has happened in the places where we as a community said it should happen. And it’s happened in the forms that we as a community said we wanted.”—Brad Buchanan, executive director, Denver Community Planning and Development

I’m not giving up my car. It’s a pain to get around this city using public transportation.

Agree: “Denver has regional transit figured out, like between Denver and Boulder, but not how to get around within Denver. We’re hostage to the car.” —Troy Russ, urban designer, Kimley-Horn

Disagree: “We are a great transit city. By the end of this year, we’ll have transit investments that are just about in every corner. We just need to show people how to use it—show them that there really are very few barriers.” Dave Genova, general manager and CEO, RTD

Denver 2036?

We asked some well-known locals a question: “What will Denver be known for in the next 20 years?”

“I envision that downtown Denver will be viewed as one of the premier center cities in the nation; that we will have a population that is continuing to grow exponentially; and that we are viewed as an innovation and entrepreneurial hub both in terms of how we build our companies and how we build our cities.” Tami Door, president and CEO, Downtown Denver Partnership

“No other airport in North America, maybe even the world, has the potential that this airport has to grow and to develop. I think you’re going to see major growth in the northeast quadrant of the city. Because our airport has global reach, I think it’s going to have an international feel to it.” Kim Day, CEO, Denver International Airport

“I think Denver has built a beautiful base for what urban economies of the future will look like, and it’s not all about mega-corporations. This is a true entrepreneurial hot spot for a variety of industries, and Denver may be the most model American city for building the medium—in terms of policy, culture, and business infrastructure—that allows this entrepreneurialism to take shape.” Jim Deters, CEO, Galvanize

“Denver seems to have a more independent feeling than a lot of cities that I visit, with a homegrown cuisine and vibe. I think that will only get stronger. Also, it’s hard to imagine the astounding growth in beer and beer/food places will slow down anytime soon, so I think we will cement our national reputation as the Napa Valley of beer.” Jennifer Jasinski, restaurateur, Crafted Concepts

“Denver will be known for its open-minded, curious, and active people. Every weekend they will flock to the art museum, which by then will be one of the top five in the country. As folks get tired of crashing their self-driving cars, they will get to places like the museum using one of the most innovative public transportation systems in the world.” Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer director, Denver Art Museum

Our Past Predictions About the City’s Evolution—and How They Turned Out

Over the years, 5280 has made quite a few projections and predictions about the future of Denver and our state. So was our Magic 8 Ball accurate—or not?

High-Speed Rail (HSR)

We Said… “It may be 20 years or more before so-called bullet trains are a part of our everyday lives.” (“State Of Disrepair” in October 2011)

And We Were… Too optimistic. Plummeting gas prices—and the associated taxes—mean such major transportation efforts must find new funding sources. (HSR will cost up to $20 billion.) Newer assessments say it could be 50 years before HSR is a reality here.

Downtown Parking Lots

We Said… Replacing surface lots with skyscrapers “could transform Denver’s we-like-our-space attitude and create a denser city.” (“Who Owns Denver?” in May 2011)

And We Were… Right. Mixed-use high-rises are replacing surface parking lots. But we still have ample room for upward growth and density, particularly in Arapahoe Square, Uptown, and around the Colorado Convention Center.

Union Station Area

We Said… The most impressive thing about the Central Platte Valley was “the crowds of people swarming—and paying big bucks—to live in the nascent ’hood.” (“The Future Of Denver” in December 2009)

And We Were… Lacking vision. Our outlook seems quaint now, as a new neighborhood has popped up around Union Station—and people and businesses have only just started moving in.


We Said… “If we’d like to complete all the FasTracks on time (by 2020), we’ll need to approve
another 0.4 percent sales tax increase in 2012.” (“State Of Disrepair”)

And We Were… Wrong(ish). New light-rail lines are opening, with more planned, but that tax measure never made the ballot. Unless our leaders cook up new revenue ideas, it might be 2044 before the FasTracks system is finished.

Make Your Voice Heard

Are you a fan of all the development? Upset about how your neighborhood is transforming? Tell the people in charge. Blueprint Denver, a citywide plan for how the Mile High City will look and feel in the next 20 years, is being updated. So take a survey at and become part of the planning process.

By The Numbers

Some Key Stats About Denver’s Expansion: A quick look at how growth is affecting our city.

24: Corporations that have expanded in or relocated to downtown Denver since 2014

4,508: Employees working for city-center startups as of September

83: Percentage of people who say economic opportunity is a factor in moving to or staying in Colorado

2.7: Unemployment rate in the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area as of February

4.9: National unemployment rate as of February

$37,946: Colorado median wage

$36,200: National median wage

15: Percentage of Coloradans who are “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the range of housing options in their communities

26.3: Percentage of renters in Colorado’s six largest metro areas who spend at least half of their pre-tax incomes on rent and utilities, a burden housing experts define as “severe”

$634 million: Public and private investment in downtown Denver in 2015, resulting in 511 new hotel rooms, 1,901 residential units, and 333,000 new square feet of office space

Preserving Our Natural Resources: Some numbers to keep in mind when pondering how to protect our outdoor riches.

525: Square miles of natural areas in Colorado lost to human development between 2001 and 2011 (about 12 percent of the total loss for the entire American West)

13.7 million: Acre-feet of water per year that originate within Colorado (one acre-foot equals one football field, one foot deep)

5.2–9.2 million: Colorado’s projected population growth between 2008 and 2050

970,000–1.7 million: Change in Colorado’s projected municipal water demand, in acre-feet, from 2008 to 2050.

How Colorado’s Water Is Used: Exits the state to downstream users (61.3 percent), Agricultural (34.3 percent), Municipal (2.9 percent), Industrial (1.5 percent)

The Industries That Will Lead Colorado’s Growth

  • Professional and Business Services*
  • Mining and Logging
  • Education and Health Services
  • Leisure and Hospitality
  • Construction

*Engineers, architects, consultants, aerospace employees, tech, etc.

Sources: Alexandra Hall, chief economist, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment; Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade