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Small Business Reps Travel to DC to Protect Colorado River Flows

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February 3, 2012

PHOENIX - Small-business people who depend on the Colorado River to support tourism- and recreation-related jobs traveled to Washington this week, promoting ideas to fix the imbalance between water supply and demand in the seven-state basin.

The 370-member "Protect the Flows" coalition wants to ensure there's enough water in the river for recreation uses. Lisa Lamberson, general manager of Mountain Sports in Flagstaff, says the Colorado River is a key driver of local economies.

"We might all be small individually, but collectively we provide a lot of jobs in these small mountain and desert communities. These are important to preserve as well as create potential new jobs through these small businesses."

Lamberson says recreation and tourism need to be included when setting allocation priorities for the river.

"Allocations have always been agriculture, municipalities and energy use. We're trying to get recreation and - potentially - environmental flows included in that."

Lamberson's group is focusing on three areas where demand for Colorado River water could be reduced.

"We'd love to see improved urban conservation. We'd love to see improved agricultural efficiency. And we'd like to see potential establishing of water banks."

Cities, she says, could reduce water consumption by increased use of swimming-pool covers and low-water landscaping, as well as increased enforcement of wastewater ordinances.

Recreation and tourism support more than 80,000 jobs in Arizona and almost 10 times that number in the seven Colorado River states.

Lamberson was part of a delegation that met with 13 members of Congress and the Interior Department. Their proposals will be included in a current study of the excess demand for Colorado River water.

More information is on the Interior Department's Lower Colorado River website, usbr.gov. Protect the Flows is at protectflows.com.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ