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Economics of the Colorado River

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It's been almost a century since the Colorado River compact was created, divvying up the resources of this mighty waterway between seven states and Mexico—that's almost 40 million people who rely on the river in some way. Traditionally the economic value of the river was based on what the water could be used for...agriculture, mining, industry. But as Maeve Conran reports for Connecting the Drops, more people are pointing to the economic value of keeping water in the river itself.

 

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Pair Sound with Sight 

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This new condo in Winter Park lists its proximity to the river as a selling point. "You'll fall asleep serenaded
by the lulling sound of softly flowing water." A study on real estate values in the Colorado River Basin, conducted
by Southwick Associates on behalf of Protect the Flows found that proximity to rivers raises home values.
In Grand County, homes that offer a river view are 24 percent higher in value than homes without a river view. 
Homes located on the banks of the river are 134 percent higher in value.
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 The town of Fraser and other mountain communities on the Colorado River and its tributaries are very dependent
on the river for their tourism economy.
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 The Fraser River in Grand County is a tributary of the Colorado River, which starts not far from here in Rocky
Mountain National Park. It runs through the heart of Fraser and neighboring Winter Park.
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Dennis Saffell has been a realtor in Grand and Summit counties for three decades. "All of these mountain towns 
are based on recreation—we have ski areas—they're second homes for the most part. People come to our towns to
spend money at restaurants, for homes, in my part it's to buy real estate, for the recreational aspects...The recreation
is all based around the river. The snow making water for all our ski areas comes out of a river...it's the absolute base
of the recreational system and it's the attractor." 
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 Craig Mackey is co-director of Protect the Flows, a network of about 1,100 businesses who all have an interest in 
keeping water in the Colorado River. 

"If you look back historically 100- 150-years, we've done a very good job of taking water out of the Colorado River
system—for cities, for industry, for agriculture, mining, for farms and ranches—all of which are very legitimate uses,
none of which are going away. But in the 21st century, we have an economic reason to have the river itself: the 
recreation economy, the tourism economy, and, I think the hardesy one to quantify, a quality of life economy."

Connecting the Drops Partners

Connecting the Drops is a radio collaboration between Water Education Colorado and Colorado Community Radio Stations KGNU, KDNK and KRCC.


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