Here’s a guest column from Luis Benitez writing in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:
Those of us who live here, and the many recreationists and visitors who come to experience our state’s incredible landscapes and waterways, know exactly what I mean. It’s a beautiful compensation that as we are having the time of our lives, our love for the Colorado outdoors powers a huge economic engine for the state. The Colorado outdoor recreation economy generates $31.2 billion in revenue on a yearly basis, $994 million through taxes to our federal and state governments, and 125,000 Colorado jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. People and companies come to Colorado because they want a lifestyle that includes this unique layout of natural wonder.
At the core of our economic bounty lies a healthy river system, which allows for fishing, kayaking, healthy forests and lands, and is essential to daily life on farms, ranches, and in municipalities across the West. In Colorado alone, river-related activities account for $6.3 billion in direct consumer spending on recreation and sustain 80,000 recreation jobs. In total, according to a study commissioned by Protect the Flows, a group of Colorado River businesses, the Colorado River system is responsible for $26 billion in revenue from river-related activities across the seven basin states in the West, and supports 240,000 sustainable jobs.
Beyond the recreational activities supported by the river, more than 33 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico all depend on the Colorado River for their water supply. Today, more than 1.8 million acres of land are irrigated with water from the Colorado River, producing about 15 percent of the nation’s crops and about 13 percent of its livestock generating about $1.5 billion a year in agricultural benefits.
These figures illuminate the importance of the Colorado River to our quality of life and our state’s prosperity. It’s easy to understand why we celebrate Colorado River Day on July 25 each year, the day the Colorado River was officially renamed from the Grand to the Colorado in 1921.