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Paddlers Identify Recreational Water Needs in Colorado

Posted: 07/24/2007
By: Nathan Fey

In Colorado, nine river-basin roundtables are charged by the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act ( to assess how much water is needed to protect “non-consumptive” recreational and environmental attributes, as well as how much water is needed for "consumptive" uses like agriculture, industry, and municipal delivery systems.
When compared against water supply figures, quantified consumptive and non-consumptive needs help the state identify how much water is available for future delivery to municipal systems around the state, particularly the growing Front Range.
If the paddling community does not sufficiently advocate for recreational water needs and the economic benefits they provide in the needs assessment process, water planners will assume there is more water available in our basins for redistribution. Right now, paddlers must demonstrate how we currently use water in Colorado for private or commercial rafting and kayaking, and protect these attributes from future development.

American Whitewater is working with paddlers to take an advocacy position in each basin, and to participate in the needs assessment process. Our strategy for protecting recreational water needs starts by providing decision-makers with a complete and current database of rivers used for kayaking and rafting.

Now is the first time for paddlers to get involved in a meaningful way, in the State Water Supply Innitiative and the Basin Roundtable process. Each of the nine basin roundtables in Colorado are charged with identifying new projects that can provide water to a growing population. Several projects that would aide in meeting the growing demand for water along Colorado’s Front Range are “in the works”, but these projects fail to meet the projected gap in supplying urban water needs. The State believes that additional water development must be planned, and “unused” water supplies need to be re-distributed throughout Colorado to meet our growing demands. Multiple projects are planned that will pull water out of western river basins, and into pipelines feeding large storage reservoirs on the eastern slope. Paddlers must stand up and say "No, you can't take this river,  we use it.  We need to find ways to share it"

During the planning process, Paddlers have the responsibility to advocate for recreational water uses and Instream flows for environmental protection. To be most effective, we must identify all stretches of Colorado’s rivers used for commercial and private rafting and kayaking, and ensure that all recreational attributes are included in each basin’s Non-Consumptive Needs Assessment.

American Whitewater is working with our volunteers and members to fill out our comprehensive river database, housing data that characterizes whitewater attributes in Colorado. The StreamTeam Project is the way that American Whitewater lets its members share their knowledge about rivers with the paddling public. It’s a grass-roots online database of river info, continually updated and improved. The AW StreamTeam Project is currently used by the Colorado Water Conservation Board's State Water Supply Initiative. (

There are more boatable stretches of Colorado’s whitewater rivers than are listed on the AW Database, and American Whitewater believes that the State will use whatever data is available for planning efforts, good or bad.
American Whitewater needs your participation in the StreamTeam Project, ensuring good representation of our recreational needs in each basin. If the paddling community’s favorite runs are not listed on the AW website, we may not be able to protect flows that support these recreational needs.
If you have knowledge of a river reach used for boating...whether it's a local creek run or a famous stream that you guide thousands of people down each Saturday, join the StreamTeam Project, share your knowledge, and help American Whitewater serve as Colorado's clearinghouse of recreational attributes around the State!

Please connect with American Whitewaters StreamTeam Project, click here:

To see the information that already exists, click here:

Colorado Stewardship Director

Nathan Fey

1601 Longs Peak Ave.

Longmont, CO 80501

Phone: 303-859-8601
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