English: New housing development, Sylvan Drive...
 New housing development (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Water front properties come with great views, and often ever-increasing property value. But what happens if water levels drop? According to a Colorado River study released Monday by Protect the Flows– a network of more than 800 businesses in the seven Colorado Basin States– the value of real estate along the Colorado River and its tributaries could drop 9.5 percent if the basin’s flows drop. From the Denver Post:

 

The Department of the Interior’s three-year Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study revealed demands on the river outstripping supply in the coming decades, with a projected imbalance of 3.2 million acre-feet of water by 2060. That amounts to a possible 20 percent decline in Colorado River basin stream flows over the next five decades.

A survey of real estate brokers in the basin estimated that a 20 percent decline in flows would cut riverfront real estate sales prices by an average of 9.5 percent and river-view property values by 5.7 percent…

“From an economic standpoint, the long-term reduction in river flows ultimately could have a larger effect on the overall economic well-being of river communities if the result is to make the communities less aesthetically appealing,” reads the April 2013 survey of brokers by Southwick Associates.

 

The real estate impacts could be significant, but the economic impacts of low flows aren’t limited to real estate. From the Durango Herald:

 

The basin has a $26 billion recreational economy with more than 5 million adults visiting each year and supplying about 234,000 jobs across seven states, said Taylor Hawes, the Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River program director.

“The region’s economic vitality and its rich natural heritage are at risk,” Hawes said.

 

The economics are meaningful because of that projected 20 percent decline in Colorado River flows, as outlined in the Department of the Interior study.  Yesterday, local leaders urged Congress to continue funding a study of the Colorado basin during a Water and Power Subcommittee Hearing– the study cost about $7 million. From the Durango Herald:

 

 

“Availability of funding to do studies such as this was extremely helpful,” said Don Ostler, executive director of the Upper Colorado River Commission.

The Department of Interior allotted $8.2 million to the WaterSMART program, which in part funded the Colorado River Basin study, in May to begin resolving this issue.

However, a House bill proposed cutting WaterSMART funding by 53 percent for the next fiscal year, Connor said.

“We can’t carry out these obligations without working closely with the states,” he said.

But Executive Director Kathleen Ferris of Arizona Municipal Water said federal assistance is not necessary now.

“It’s up to the states to try to develop solutions,” Ferris said. “Then if we need federal or congressional help, (we can ask), but I’m not sure we’re there yet.”

 

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