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August 4, 2009
Colorado River District survey finds that voters treasure the Colorado River and want it protected
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Voters in Western Colorado “treasure” the Colorado River and want to see it protected. They also recognize the river’s importance to the economy, according to a survey of 500 registered voters that was commissioned by the Colorado River District.
The survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Golden, Colo., tested public perceptions about the Colorado River and issues surrounding it. For survey purposes, the Colorado River includes the main stem Colorado, Gunnison, Yampa and White Rivers and all of the streams and rivers that flow into them in Western Colorado – the tributaries. The sample of voters represents the 15 Western Colorado counties that comprise the Colorado River District.
Eighty-six percent of voters identified the river as a “state treasure.” Ninety-five percent said the river was “important to the economy on the Western Slope.” Ninety-one percent said the river was important to them “personally.” Eighty-four percent agreed the river is “in need of greater protection.”
However, when it comes to voters’ top concern, the economy is No. 1 with a 75 percent response. Second on the list is loss of farmlands, ranches and orchards (55 percent) followed by taxes (46 percent). A second tier of concerns includes pollution of rivers and streams, inadequate water supplies, more frequent droughts, loss of habitat for fish and wildlife, lower snowpack and climate change.
Most voters (55 percent) do not think Western Colorado is experiencing a drought today and most do not worry about current water supplies being inadequate (64 percent). However, 57 percent foresee inadequate water supplies in 10 years.
When it comes to understanding the legal obligations on the Colorado River, results were mixed. Forty-eight percent know a certain amount of water has to flow past the state line to satisfy the Colorado River Compact of 1922. But 19 percent thought wrongly that Colorado could use as much of the river as desired and 32 percent did not have enough information to say one way or the other.
When asked about threats to the river, 83 percent cited out-of-state water interests. Overall population growth was cited by 80 percent and 75 percent cited water users on the Front Range as principal threats to Western Colorado water.
“The more that citizens are aware of western water concerns, the better the hope there is for balanced solutions,” said Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River District. Kuhn often speaks about the challenges to water supply that loom with population growth, a possible oil shale industry and the uncertainties of drought and climate change. The Colorado River District believes that West Slope agriculture, recreational and environmental values must be balanced against the challenges.
The Colorado River District was formed in 1937 to protect Western Colorado water in the wake of the first big transmountain diversion of the time, the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Property owners in 15 counties fund the district through a small mill levy that is less than a quarter of one mill or roughly $4 annually for a $250,000 home. Member counties include Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Summit, Grand, Ouray, Hinsdale and Saguache.
To learn more about the Colorado River District visit our website at www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org