To highlight grassroots concern over the Colorado River, EcoFlight flew with the advocacy group Protect the Flows, over a giant message carved into a field intended to be visible to President Obama as he flew into Grand Junction on a recent campaign tour. Protect the Flows represents about 500 Western businesses that depend on the river, which supports thousands of jobs, agricultural fields and livestock in the region.
According to Protect the Flows, excessive demands have depleted water reserves. In a letter to the President in advance of his visit, the coalition urged the Administration to implement cost-effective measures — including water conservation provisions proposed in the Farm Bill — to address these issues.
Recreation on the Colorado River and its tributaries supports 80,000 jobs in Colorado and results in nearly $10 billion in total economic output. In the larger Southwest, river recreation supports nearly a quarter million American jobs and $26 billion in total economic output.
Threats to the Colorado River include continued pressure to develop oil shale in western Colorado Utah; a proposal to divert water from the Green River in Wyoming (a key northern tributary) to the Front Range of Colorado, and several new diversions from the Colorado River headwaters region to the Front Range.
More precious water resources could also be used by energy companies seeking to step up their fracking projects, while climate change — highlighted by this year’s drought — shows the need to manage the Colorado River conservatively.