population growth

Many communities in the West are growing, and in some places that’s putting pressure on already scarce water supplies.

That’s the case in northern Colorado, where a proposed set of reservoirs promises to allow small suburbs to keep getting bigger. The project, called the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), has stirred up a familiar debate over how the West grows, and whether water should be a limiting factor.

Over the last five years, the Mountain West as a whole has experienced a spike in population, while at the same time every state in the region saw a decrease in the number of people living in poverty, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the Census Bureau, Western towns with fewer than 5000 people have grown on average in recent years. Meanwhile, populations in similar sized towns in the Northeast and Midwest have gotten smaller.

Over the past decade or so, the Mountain West has seen rapid population growth, but there are parts of the region that are slowing down.

Elizabeth Garner, the State Demographer for Colorado, said that for a while the Mountain West has had the advantage of lower costs and more space. But since 2015, Colorado’s growth rate has been declining, which means that “we’re still increasing, just by not as many,” said Garner.

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Wyoming’s economy is the most sluggish in the nation, according to a report released by Bloomberg in December. That ranking came from analysis of employment, income, stock and home prices, as well as late mortgage payments around the nation. Bloomberg analysts attributed the state’s poor score to the recent energy downturn, as well as the fact that Wyoming has no urban center, where job growth tends to accelerate.

Andrew Cullen

The high school football game is the center of life for small towns in much of rural America. And one town, in western North Dakota, is celebrating the return of that ritual for the first time in over a quarter century.

The Alexander Comets are a six-man football team (the school is still too small to host the 11-man game). On the day before their home opener, against a small town in eastern Montana, they're going over plays and their warm-up routine.

"I can’t wait for tomorrow to come," says wide receiver Jayy Morgan, "my head’s going to explode right now."