2012 J U N E #3-5
Colorado River: Major Economic Powerhouse
A $26 Billion Recreation Resource
Economic Study Reveals Colorado River
visit and spend their money when their pre-
As Top Employer, Major Economic Driver
ferred recreation spots are no longer usable.
However, consider the size of the Colorado
Across West
Following extensive research into the eco-
River basin and the distance to alternative
nomic impact of recreational activities along
places, well over half the people surveyed said
their outdoor recreation would significantly
the Colorado River and its tributaries across
six western states, Protect the Flows in part-
decrease if the River was not available. Without
recreation along the River, the federal govern-
nership with Southwick Associates, Inc. on
May 3 released a study entitled, "Colorado
ment is risking over half a billion dollars in
River, Inc.: The $26 Billion Recreation Re-
taxes." The study comes as the Bureau of Rec-
source Employing a Quarter Million Ameri-
lamation (BOR) considers proposals to resolve
cans," revealing the Colorado River to be the
the supply and demand imbalance during the
final weeks of the Options and Strategies Phase
19th largest employer on the Fortune 500,
and major economic powerhouse fueling
of the Colorado River Basin Study.
Upon completion in July, the BOR Study will define current and future
economies in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and
imbalances in water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin over
Wyoming. Protect the Flows, a coalition of more than 400 small busi-
the next 50 years, and provide adaptation and mitigation strategies to
nesses from the seven Colorado River basin states of Arizona, California,
resolve those imbalances. Federal and state governments can then con-
Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, commissioned
sider these findings when deciding on measures to solve the imbalance.
the report by economic research firm Southwick Associates, Inc. to
"This study makes it clear just how much the Colorado River needs to
understand the economic output derived from the Colorado River and
watch its bottom line. Water-related recreation is our lifeline," said Protect
its tributaries. The study found that 5.36 million adults use the Colorado
the Flows coordinator Molly Mugglestone. "The west's economic future
River and its tributaries for recreational activities, including picnick-
is tied this magnificent resource and the recreation it encourages, so we
ing, trail activities, wildlife watching, camping, fishing, water sports,
would do well to do all we can to protect it and keep the river flowing."
bicycling, and snow sports each year, and that such recreation, in turn,
U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) will meet
contributes significantly to the economic growth and stability of basin
with the study's lead economist and mountain region business leaders on
region states. Among the study's key findings, river-related recreation
May 4, in Denver to determine what actions they need to take to pre-
in the six-state region: Supports 234,000 jobs across Arizona, Colorado,
serve the future of the Colorado River. "When tourists visit the Colorado
Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Produces $26 billion in
River, they stay in a hotel, eat out at restaurants, fill up their gas tank,
economic output. Generates $17.0 billion in retail sales. Out performs re-
buy snacks and souvenirs," said Senator Bennet. "When you consider
gional farming revenues by 14.6% on average. Contributes $3.2 billion in
all these visitors, it adds up to billions of dollars that ripple through our
federal, state, and local tax revenue annually. Provides enough state and
local tax revenues to fund over 29,000 teacher positions. Creates $10.4
billion in annual earnings, salaries, and wages.
"The Colorado River is the economic, cultural and social backbone of the
Southwest," said Senator Udall. "We must be mindful of the important
"The Colorado River is a major provider of recreation, which is a tre-
role outdoor recreation plays in our economy and to our way of life as
mendous economic driver across the basin region. But what must be
we make decisions about how to allocate water, because we stand to lose
emphasized here, is that unlike other income generators, there are very
thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in Colorado if we do not."
few substitutes for the Colorado River," said Rob Southwick, the study's
lead economist. "Typically, there are alternative places for people to
(For the complete report, go to
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