Protect the Flows hopes to galvanize business interests the are dependent on wet water in the Colorado River

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjun):

[Zeke Hersh], the owner of Frisco’s Blue River Anglers joined a contingent of six who voiced the message of Protect the Flows, a brand-new, grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness of water supply and related jobs in the Colorado River system — from the headwaters to the delta. The group represented river-related business interests from Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, Hersh said, adding that the group isn’t just gaining traction by sitting with legislators and leaders in the nation’s environmental governance. It’s also building a broader base, growing from 170 companies to 370 companies involved in the effort from its start in summer 2011 to today.

The goal in going to D.C. was to urge the Department of the Interior and legislators to consider plans that will employ smart, common-sense strategies to keep the Colorado River flowing when they finalize the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Supply & Demand Study this summer.

Now that the “Options and Strategies Phase” of the Colorado River Supply and Demand Study is closed, submitted proposals will be considered and evaluated through June 2012. Upon completion, the study will define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years, and will provide adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances…

As an angler, a guide, and a mountain biker who likes to cruise Moab, Utah and cool off afterwards in the lazy Colorado River that flows through town, Hersh said he can help provide valuable, first-hand insight into the river’s impact throughout the West. It goes far beyond drinking water needs and agricultural impact, he said. The message of Protect the Flows is that more than 800,000 jobs in the West (107,000 and more than $10 billion into the Colorado’s economy alone) come directly from the river, and those people must be considered when the fate of the water supply is considered…

While in DC, the business leaders asked the Department of Interior to implement a plan that will improve urban conservation, improve agricultural efficiency and provide options for existing water storage that will allow for keeping more water in the river. The coalition touts these measures as a way to balance supply and demand to continue to serve the 36 million who rely on the waterway for drinking water and protect the 800,000 river-related tourism and recreation jobs across the seven Colorado River Basin states.

“Department of Interior’s keen leadership is the key to ensuring that the Colorado River Basin Study results in solutions that will benefit all parties,” said Sarah Sidwell, sales director for Tag-A-Long Expeditions in Moab, Utah and member of the Moab Area Chamber of Commerce…

In D.C., they presented some viable ideas for handling the plethora of water issues facing the West, including the extremely difficult task of reworking the complicated water law. Water banks are first on the list, Hersh said. Initiated in Arizona, it allows those holding water rights to override the “use it or lose it” rule of thumb in years of excess flows. These folks can use what they need, and bank the rest for credit later. In the meantime, someone else can buy or borrow the water…

“Jobs are very important right now. We do not want to lose one job,” Hersh said … as we decide how to manage the water in the Colorado River and its tributaries.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

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