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Great Outdoors

The Future Of The Colorado River Is Everyone’s Business

Mike Newbry

Businesses are taking the Colorado River seriously. The river’s basin, which spreads across seven United States, two Mexican states, and 29 tribal reservations, is the heart of the water supply for nearly 40 million people. The river is also the water source for more than $5 billion worth of agriculture across those lands, including cattle, cotton, vegetables, and forage crops. With issues ranging from wildfires, population growth, and drought, the river’s healthy future is at risk. Fortune 500 businesses such as Major League Baseball, Danone North America, and Intel are stepping up to mitigate the perils that face this watershed. Their investment in the river is a statement of its significant economic and agricultural impact on residents and businesses.

A recent study from Arizona State University indicates that if the Colorado River runs dry more than half of Colorado’s $189 billion gross state product would be lost.

That staggering potential $95 million loss would be just the beginning. No water in the river means two million jobs would disappear, many in healthcare, finance, retail trade, and real estate.

Photo Courtesy Zach Lucero

“Our water challenges are urgent, and they are solvable,” said Todd Reeve, CEO of Bonneville Environmental Foundation and founder of its Business for Water Stewardship program. “The key is collaboration among all water users. After all, when there isn’t enough water to go around, everyone loses. We need all hands on deck, and businesses are stepping up and doing their part.”

Businesses are recognizing that the Colorado River must be treated with care.

Numerous companies have contributed uniquely, including a big statement by Mayfly Outdoors. The company’s CEO purchased more than 160 acres on the tributary Uncompahgre River and donated a portion back for preservation and public use. That donation led to river restoration work and revitalization. The Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball team is working to restore 30 million gallons of water to its namesake river. Intel has announced positive net water use by 2050, citing the Colorado River as one of its most important water supplies.

Photo Courtesy Westwind Air Service

“A reliable water supply is essential for semiconductor manufacturing and our communities,” said Intel Corporate Sustainability Manager Fawn Bergen. “The Colorado River, the Rio Grande River, and their tributaries provide water to millions of people, supporting farming, ranching, rural communities, recreation, and habitat for a healthy and resilient ecosystem. This is why our company has made — and continues to make — significant investments in our watersheds and our own operations to support water resources and use water efficiently. We have a responsibility to maintain and positively impact this resource.”

Like Intel, Danone believes water sustainability is integral to a healthy business and planet.

“It’s important to us to be a good steward,” explained Deanna Bratter, Danone’s Head of Sustainable Development. “Our frame of action at Danone is ‘One Planet, One Health,’ and Colorado embraces this thinking with its deep respect of the natural world and the interconnectivity with its people.”

As corporations like these demonstrate they value the Colorado River and its watershed – and can sustainably manage this important and finite resource –  the result is a positive, healthier, and economically-viable future for all.

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