(SPONSORED) — As our state continues to grow, sustainability is top-of-mind for lawmakers. Director of Data-Driven Economic Strategies (DDES) Tatiana Bailey breaks down how river levels impact not just our state, but the lives of others around us.

As Bailey explains, as our city and state continue to grow, water scarcity and sustainable economic growth are front and center. The Colorado River Compact, established 100 years ago, includes seven southwest states; Colorado, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, that fall within the drainage basin of the Colorado River.

Bailey said, the pact provides water allotments for each state from the river, which is fed in large part by the snowpack within our state. However, the Western U.S. is experiencing the driest two decades in at least 1200 years. According to Bailey, Colorado Springs obtains 70% of its water from the river, with 25% of that water being recycled.

“It’s important to remember that low river levels compromise the associated dams that also provide power,” said Bailey

According to Bailey, the Colorado River is estimated to support 16 million jobs and about 1/12 of the U.S. GDP, with all seven states not able to agree on a new compact. The federal government may have to step in and create a new agreement for all seven states.

Bailey said these water challenges prompted a recent decision by the city council to require any new expansion or annexation to prove that 128% of water needs can still be met within the city.

“Planning ahead is always a good thing, but it’s complicated. Our region has double the population growth rate of the U.S. and an existing housing shortage,” said Bailey. “This has driven up prices to the point where housing affordability went from 74% of homes being affordable to the median household income down to 18% in just three years.”

Bailey said it’s a conundrum because there is a desire to grow responsibly, but also enable all income and age levels to be able to buy homes.

“We’re going to have to think and act outside the box in terms of conservation, efficiency, and innovations in how we build new homes,” said Bailey.