BUENA VISTA, Colo. - Rivers are flowing and that's good news for the recreation business. Record snowpacks have Colorado rafting outfitters giddy with anticipation, while water managers work on ways to keep those rivers running into the future.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a Coloradoan, is heading up a study this summer aimed at measuring how much water is in the Colorado River, checking impending threats to the supply, and finding ways to keep water in the river to meet demands. Seven states Western states including Colorado are involved in the study.
Earl Richmond, co-owner of Colorado Kayak Supply, is one of the biggest retailers and taxpayers in the small town of Buena Vista, and the river is vital to his business.
"The Colorado River is the gem of the western United States, it's the lifeblood of recreation, and really is something that is a huge part of our history. People need to continue to be able to have experiences on it."
The study will include recommendations for future water management in the Colorado River Basin where climate change, record drought and population increases have heightened competition for scarce water supplies.
Richmond says there needs to be a balanced solution that recognizes the importance of recreation and tourism.
"And in return we get a great increase in tax revenue and a great increase in a green sustainable economy, which is a recreational economy where people come, they have fun, they play and spend money and end up going back to their homelands."
The study will consider multiple factors, including water for municipal, industrial, environmental and agricultural use, hydroelectric power, recreation, fish and wildlife and water-dependent ecological systems, under a broad range of conditions that could occur over the next 50 years.
Later phases of the ongoing study will include quantifying the demand scenarios, assessing future system reliability, and the development and evaluation of opportunities to balance supply and demand.
States participating in the Colorado River Water Supply and Demand Study are Colorado, Utah, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Nevada.
An interim report is available at www.usbr.gov