Businesses that earn money from recreation and tourism along the Colorado River support nearly a quarter of a million jobs in six Western states and produce $26 billion in value to the regional economy, a new study concluded.
The loss of those businesses to dwindling river flows could cost the states billions of dollars in tax revenue and throw thousands of people out of work, according to the study, released Friday by Protect the Flows, a coalition of small businesses along the 1,450-mile river.
The study's goal is to highlight the importance of preserving steady flows in the Colorado and its tributaries, even as demand in the West diverts an increasing amount of water out of the rivers and into reservoirs and pipelines.
Protect the Flows hired Southwick Associates, an economic-research firm, to try to determine the value of recreation and tourism on the river. Southwick surveyed hundreds of people in six states where the river produced direct business value: Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Although California uses water from the Colorado, it generates little revenue directly along the river.
Those surveys revealed that nearly four in 10 of those questioned had participated in a recreational activity on the Colorado or one of its tributary rivers. With that information, Southwick used economic models to estimate the effect on businesses that provide direct services, such as river-rafting outfitters or boat-rental companies, and those that benefit in other ways, such as hotels and restaurants. 12 News (AZ)