Author: Andrew

Conservation and Recreation: The Colorado River

Conservation and Recreation: The Colorado River

Salton Sea cleanup in jeopardy as states battle over Colorado River water rights

A look at how efforts to clean up the U.S. water supply are intersecting with efforts to protect Colorado River water rights.

As one of the final remaining large bodies of fresh water in the Western Hemisphere, the Colorado River is by far the most significant water source for American farmers and ranchers.

Despite the potential for enormous economic benefits for the agricultural industry, the Colorado River Compact has been a bone of contention in its long history.

The river itself, which originates in the highlands of Utah and flows into Mexico, remains one of the world’s most vital resources for food and agriculture. But the river also flows through states whose economies and political histories run counter to the priorities and desires of large farming areas, leaving these states — much to the detriment of the farmers that rely on the river — in a legal and political bind regarding the flow of water into downstream markets.

In the U.S., agriculture is the No. 1 reason for water use in the agriculture sector, while recreation is the No. 2 driver of water use in this sector, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

In addition, recreation provides for about 40 percent of all job creation in the United States, and agriculture accounts for 13 percent of jobs. These numbers are up for debate, however, with many advocates for water conservation and better access to recreational water arguing that recreation in this country is the primary driver of water consumption.

Regardless of its importance, water conservation and better access to water for recreation have become a significant source of conflict between states vying for water rights to the Colorado River. As the water becomes restricted, so do the recreational and economic opportunities available for the residents of these states. Meanwhile, conservation and better access to water for the states remain one of the two central factors in the development of the National Park Service.

But it hardly is enough to protect the river in one sense, or to protect the parks and recreation areas in another.

The biggest single source of Colorado River water

The Colorado River originates in the highlands of eastern Utah, but it flows south through the Great Basin into the Colorado River Basin, through the Grand Canyon, and into Salt Lake

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