A Paddler’s Perspective on Protecting the Colorado River
Today’s guest blog about the #1 Colorado River- a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series- is from George Wendt, Founder and President of O.A.R.S. and a member of Protect The Flows. Protect The Flows is a network of over 800 businesses who own and operate businesses in communities along the Colorado River.
O.A.R.S., a family-owned river rafting company, has been running trips on the Colorado River since 1969. During the last 44 years, we have guided over 50,000 vacationers on river trips on the Colorado and its tributaries. Healthy river flows are crucial to our business and countless others in the Colorado River corridor. These businesses serve clients who want to spend recreational time experiencing the excitement, tranquility, and restorative value of the river each year.
This week, the Colorado River received the dubious distinction of being named America’s Most Endangered River. Truly the lifeblood of the Southwest, the Colorado supplies drinking water to 36 million people, irrigates four million acres, and is responsible for the production of 15 percent of our nation’s crops. The Colorado River is responsible for nearly 250,000 sustainable American jobs in a $26 billion outdoor recreation economy across the seven river-basin states.
The Colorado River is so dammed, drained, and diverted that it dries up to a trickle before reaching the sea. Over-allocation and drought have placed significant stress on water supplies and the river’s health, as well as fish and wildlife. This year, the Colorado River basin is facing another drought. Challenges such as lean snow years, multi-year drought, increasing demand, and outdated water management threaten this mighty river.
A 19th century system wastes water, relies heavily on expensive and inflexible infrastructure, and is predicated on the notion that water is an unlimited resource– which it is clearly not. We need to take advantage of innovative solutions and technology that promote conservation and bring the river system and management into the 21st century.
We must take this opportunity to ensure healthy rivers by making decisions that maintain and restore flows necessary for natural habitats, wildlife, and recreation. The health of the Colorado River and its tributaries is vital for the environmental and economic health of its seven-state basin.
As one of many small family businesses dependent upon the river, O.A.R.S. is working to do its part to promote healthy living to the diverse American public that is dependent upon this resource. We serve many school and youth groups as part of a broad effort encouraging youth to get outdoors. We are working to enhance public awareness of the Colorado River’s water challenges and promote the health of its river system through smart water use.
We can’t continue to irresponsibly use the river and expect it to satisfactorily serve our region’s needs.