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Please respond to flow surveys for the Crystal and Roaring Fork Rivers (CO)!

Posted: 12/05/2020
By: Cassidy Randall

As boaters, we're all about geeking out on river flow. We know that no two rivers have the same range of flows for a good experience; each river has its own magic formula of flows for boating. And on our home rivers, we usually know the exact gage reading for when it's time to go boating.

Now, American Whitewater needs your local knowledge of flows on the whitewater segments of the Crystal and Roaring Fork Rivers. Your responses to the surveys for recreational boating on the Crystal and Roaring Fork will help us protect good boating conditions on these two classic Colorado rivers.

We'll synthesize the information from the survey with historical gage records on the Crystal and Roaring Fork to output a hydrograph that counts the number of days for a range of acceptable flows on each river. The result: boatable days, a ground-breaking scientific tool aimed at protecting recreation as an outstandingly remarkable value of a river. With this metric, we can begin to protect flow ranges for boating on these rivers.

It used to be that we only valued consumptive uses of water in the West, like farming, livestock, mining, city and town use. But in recent years, a revolutionary new cyclic concept has emerged that's beginning to be accepted into river management: healthy environments equal healthy recreation equals healthy economies.

We've already found in our work over the years with so many different stakeholders that protecting a diverse range of flows on a river for boating also protects that river's ecological benefits to riparian habitats for fish and wildlife, far better than fixed flows. 

Next, AW is turning to the healthy economies part of the equation. We already know that sustainable recreation is emerging as a major economic driver. Colorado's Outdoor Recreation Economy was valued at $62.5 billion and 10% of the state's entire GDP in 2019, and continues to grow as Coloradan's and visitors to the state utilize outdoor recreation resources at rates we've never seen before.

That's why we're working to develop an economic impact analysis tool to measure boating's contribution to a healthy economy specific to a particular river, a tool we hope can be used by local governments, Chambers of Commerce, business owners, NGOs, community members, and other groups to identify river recreation's impacts on local economies.

Colorado's rivers are widely recognized for their stunning beauty and world-class adventure. By highlighting the recreational economic impact of these rivers, American Whitewater can help communities diversify its economy and highlight the community's values for conservation and recreation, while also empowering the communities of places the Roaring Fork Valley to grow in a way that they deem appropriate.

Image credit: Quinn Donnelly

Jesse Wycko

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