The Colorado River Basin's Economy

Relationship to Water

Tourism and Recreation, Agriculture and Energy are all critical and integral components of the Basin Economy. Tourism is the predominant basic-sector industry in the headwaters counties (Grand, Eagle, Summit, and Pitkin) with world-class visitor attractions, including ski resorts, Gold Medal fishing, National Parks and Wild and Scenic eligible rivers. Each County ranks tourism as a top economic development strategy. Tourism comprises 48% of all jobs, in contrast, with the rest of the State, tourism comprises 8% of all jobs statewide. In 2010, 60% of all overnight skier visitors came from out-of-state. Most major ski resorts are in the six headwaters counties. Skiers spent an average of $931 per person during their average 4.6 day stay (Longswood International, 2011). In 2007, in the six headwaters counties (including Gunnison and Routt counties), anglers spent about $105.8 million on goods and services and generated a total economic impact of $180.68 million and 2,199 jobs (NWCCOG, 2012). This economy also benefits the Front Range counties, where travel and equipment expenditures comprise an important component.

Headwaters counties are highly dependent on and vulnerable to changes in environmental conditions that impact tourism (NWCCOG, 2012). Risks to environmental and recreational uses already exist. For example, the ecosystems of many headwater streams currently suffer from depletions by TMDs and local water uses. Further development of TMDs including the 120,000 AF to 140,000 AF, already identified in increased TMDs, will further impact the available recreational and environmental flows and carried through to the related industries in the Basin. Recreation, the economic mainstay for many counties in the Basin, requires virtually no consumptive water (NWCCOG, 2012).

The value of agriculture to the Basin is often understated. Agriculture is part of the historic culture; it is complementary to tourism and a vital source of return flows that sustain late season stream flows for fisheries. It produces cattle that support east slope feedlots (NWCCOG, 2012) and summer produce that fills our grocery stores. A large percentage, of the beef raised within our Basin is exported outside of the state and to other countries. Colorado’s agricultural and food industries support about four percent of Colorado’s jobs and many of Colorado’s counties are “ag dependent” (CDM, 2011b).

Energy also represents an important though varied segment of the economy. Water needs of the energy industry are similarly varied.

(The above information was extracted from the Colorado Basin Implementation Plan and edited slightly to fit)

Upper Colorado River Wild & Scenic Stakeholder Group

The Upper Colorado River Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group formed as an independent, collaborative group in 2007. Their intention is to balance permanent protection of the Outstandingly Remarkable Values, certainty for the stakeholders, water project yield, and flexibility for water users along the Upper Colorado River.

Gold Metal Fishing & White Water Rafting

The Colorado Basin is blessed with having some of the best rafting, kayaking and fishing rivers anywhere. Gold medal fishing water includes parts of the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork, Gore Creek and the upper Colorado River. World class white water is found in Gore Canyon, with rafting and fishing for many miles down stream from Pump House to Glenwood Springs

To find more on the Upper Colorado, visit:

To find out more about Gold Metal fishing, visit:

Scroll to Top
Skip to content