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Study: Colorado River’s Economic Value Is Huge

  The Colorado River is often called the lifeblood of the West, and now a new studyshows just how economically vital the river is to the seven states that rely on it.

The research finds the Colorado River supports 16 million jobs. It puts the river’s economic value at $1.4 trillion.

Arizona State University economist Tim James tallied the river’s worth and learned water’s not only crucial to agriculture, but indirectly to finance, retail and other industries, too.

“You have to look at the thing in the round and all the effects,” he says, “rather than just concentrating on particular areas either geographically or in terms of production activities.”

The study says about half of Utah’s gross state product is tied to the river. That’s nearly $70 billion and 969,735 jobs. The nonprofit business group, Protect the Flows, commissioned the analysis as Western leaders continue a yearlong focus on drought and minimizing its impacts.

“The thing that we’re finding through this series of discussions is the importance of collaboration and communication,” says Carlee Brown, a policy analyst for the Western Governors Association.

Brown says managing water wisely in the Colorado River Basin -- and throughout the West -- is crucial to protecting the economy and quality of life.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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