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Professional Paper 1698
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Energy Resource Studies, Northern Front Range, Colorado

Edited by Neil S. Fishman

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The infrastructure of a populated area, including roads, airports, water and energy transmission and distribution facilities, and sewage treatment plants, is critical to the vitality and sustainability of the area. Construction of new and ongoing maintenance of existing infrastructure both require large volumes of natural resources such as energy (oil, natural gas, and coal), construction aggregate (stone, sand, and gravel), and water. However, sufficient natural resources may not always be available for ready use due to (1) scarcity of local sources, (2) inaccessibility (for example, gravel cannot be mined from under a housing subdivision), (3) unsuitability of the resource (for example, polluted ground water may be unfit for domestic use), or (4) land use or legal restrictions limiting access to local sources. Should local sources of these natural resources either be unavailable or not used, then costs incurred to construct and maintain an area’s infrastructure through use of more distant supplies will be greater than they would be if local sources were used. Thus, the ability to explore for and develop local accumulations of natural resources for use in infrastructure construction and maintenance, in large part a function of accessibility to the resources, is of particular interest and benefit to areas of significant population growth or where growth is expected. The challenge for communities is to adequately factor maintenance and growth of the area’s infrastructure into comprehensive land-use planning efforts and to consider how changes in land-use designation can influence the availability of these vital natural resources.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Front Range Infrastructure Resources Project (FRIRP) was designed, with direct input from stakeholders, to advance our understanding of the location and characteristics of accumulations of energy, construction aggregate, and water—herein termed infrastructure resources—in the plains immediately east of the northern part of the Front Range in Colorado. The FRIRP study area was selected for two primary reasons. First, this area has undergone substantial population growth over the last 30 years, with the attendant need for infrastructure resources. The population is expected to increase by as much as 1 million people within the next 25 years (Denver Regional Council of Governments, 1999). Not surprisingly, the need for infrastructure resources will correspondingly grow as the existing infrastructure requires maintenance and new construction is undertaken. Second, the northern part of the Front Range of Colorado was chosen for this study because urban and commercial development has encroached upon some areas that are supplying or have historically supplied infrastructure resources. Furthermore, urban growth is projected for areas that currently produce infrastructure resources or have the potential to do so. Thus, the project study area was a natural laboratory to consider the interplay between population growth and its effects on the availability of infrastructure resources.

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Posted July 2005

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