Commercial & Industrial Use

Water deliveries to industrial users account for around 2% of the water used in Colorado or around 116,000 acre-feet of water, according to the Colorado Water Plan. On average, industrial demand is about 13% of the state’s total municipal and industrial demand. 

This industrial water use is commonly referred to as self-supplied industrial use, because industrial water users often have their own water supplies that are separate from public water systems. 

Small businesses and industry also claim a portion of municipal supplies. 

Industries with self-supplied water include breweries, mining and energy companies, thermoelectric power generators, the ski industry, food processors, and many others. 

While these sectors currently use 116,000 acre-feet, the 2015 Colorado Water Plan projects that industrial water needs could increase by 50,000 to 130,000 acre-feet per year by 2050 if economic drivers continue to encourage more industry to locate to Colorado. Using water more wisely in commerce and industry can contribute significantly to stretching water supplies. 

Water for industry in Colorado is used for:

Heating and Cooling

Cooling and heating systems are the largest water users in typical commercial and industrial facilities, including thermoelectric power plants. The cooling process accounts for 95% of the consumptive use in thermoelectric power generation, with Colorado’s power plants withdrawing around 64,500 acre-feet of water annually, or about 0.45% of total water withdrawals in the state. 

However, different types of power generation require different quantities of water. A thermoelectric coal-fired power plant requires an average of 480 gallons of water per megawatt-hour, whereas a thermoelectric natural gas plant requires 200 gallons of water per megawatt-hour. And as Colorado transitions to cleaner power sources, less water may be required for cooling and heating.

Landscape Irrigation 

Golf courses, sports fields, and other large landscaped areas surrounding suburban office parks or residential communities can use a lot of water.

Process Water

Businesses and industries use process water to clean products; transport or remove ingredients, products, or contaminants; and control pollution or dispose of waste. Process washing and rinsing are integral components of many manufacturing operations, including metal plating and finishing, paper production, and semiconductor chip fabrication. Process water is also used to develop x-ray and photographic film. 

Because the amount of water required for processing varies according to its use, both demand and potential reductions in demand are site-specific.

Oil and Gas Extraction

Oil and gas development accounts for less than one-tenth of 1% of the overall

water usage in the state, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Water in oil and gas production is used primarily for drilling and completion, or the process of making a well ready for production. This includes cooling the drill bit, bringing drill cuttings to the surface, and hydraulic fracturing.


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