I am writing to inform whitewater river boaters of an important opportunity to help define and protect recreational flows throughout the Gunnison River Basin by participating in our public survey (link provided below).
There has been a lot of talk about water in the local and national press lately and for good reason. Generally, water supply is expected to continue declining throughout the Gunnison and Colorado River basins while the population reliant on that water grows. This would create significant water shortages. 40 million people rely on the Colorado as a water source, and a driver of our region’s economies, ecosystems, agriculture, recreation and energy production. Given the very high stakes, water managers, stakeholders and policymakers at the regional, state and federal levels are looking at a variety of options to mitigate future shortages.
American Whitewater is committed to engaging in these planning efforts to ensure that the interests of paddlers – healthy river ecosystems with adequate flows to sustain the boating resource - are represented in decisions that will have a lasting impact on how our rivers are managed and allocated. To be a credible part of this process, we need numeric data on river flows that provide acceptable and optimal paddling experiences on our local rivers. The best way to quantify boating flows is to survey the private and commercial boaters that enjoy our waterways throughout the spring and summer. Accordingly, we launched the 2013 Gunnison River Flow Survey this past spring, which is available online at http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Article/view/articleid/31723/.
If you are a local or visiting rafter, kayaker, duckier, canoeist or paddleboarder, I strongly encourage you to spend a few moments completing the Survey! By providing feedback on the sections of river that you paddle, we will generate information that can be used to protect boatable flows despite a water-scarce future. The Survey is open through late July, so please respond now.
I want to ensure the broader community that American Whitewater’s work in the Gunnison Basin is underscored by intent to collaborate with all water users. Our goal is not to supersede longtime, important water uses like agriculture and angling, but rather to work with all stakeholders to ensure that all needs can continue to be met in an acceptable way. By presenting entities like the Gunnison Basin Roundtable with data on the needs of river boaters following our Survey this summer, we anticipate enhancing the conversation in a credible, collaborative fashion. The community should also understand that river related recreation generates tremendous economic benefits and that boatable flows generally correspond with healthy river ecosystems, making efforts such as ours win-win for a broad diversity of interests. For example, 5.6 million adults recreate along the Colorado River and its tributaries each year supporting 234,000 jobs and producing $26 billion in economic output and $17 billion in retail sales. Safeguarding boatable flows could be an integral component of maintaining our recreation dependent economies.
– Chris Menges, Gunnison Basin Stewardship Fellow, American Whitewater