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Report: Colorado River is Huge for Utah's Economy

PHOTO: The Colorado River means millions of jobs and billions of dollars to Utah's economy each year, according to a new report. Photo courtesy Utah Department of Transportation.
PHOTO: The Colorado River means millions of jobs and billions of dollars to Utah's economy each year, according to a new report. Photo courtesy Utah Department of Transportation.
January 19, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah's economy and the Colorado River are linked to the point that one may not exist without the other. That's according to a new study from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

It concludes that the river contributed over 900,000 jobs and nearly $70 billion to Utah's economy last year. Dr. Timothy James, professor of economics at Arizona State University, worked on the study.

"No water in the West would basically wipe out the West in terms of economic activity in all of its forms including agricultural, industrial, residential, and whatever," says James. "It would mean we would just have a decimated economy really, and there would be no reason for us actually to be here."

James adds, each year the Colorado River generates $1.4 trillion and 16 million jobs across the seven basin states; Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Jody Williams, an attorney with Holland & Hart, a law firm that specializes in natural resources law, says as the Colorado River continues to experience drought, and the region's population continues to grow, conservation has become even more critical.

"It is also going to require re-operation, smarter operation, engineering and technology changes," says Williams. "We've got to be more efficient everywhere."

The Colorado River stretches 1,450 miles from the central Rocky Mountains and flows southwest, across the Colorado Plateau to Lake Mead, before turning south into Mexico, where it empties into the Gulf of California.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT