Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published in Cornhusker Economics, 4-23-08. Produced by the Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska – Lincoln.


As part of a research project with the National Drought Mitigation Center, we have been studying the impact of drought on the Colorado rafting industry. During our research we conducted personal interviews with seven outfitters operating in the Upper Arkansas River and Colorado Department of Natural Resources officials, represented by the Arkansas Headwaters Recreational Area (AHRA). The customer distribution for this river for the last twenty-year period is shown in Figure 1 (on next page). Compared to previous seasons, the 2002 season had a dramatic decrease in the total number of customers. This season was impacted due to several factors, including a general decline in the economy, reduced travel, reduced streamflow due to drought and increased forest fires. In our research, we tried to determine what percentage of the decline in 2002 was due to reduced streamflow, compared to other factors.

A recent analysis by Loomis (2008) estimates that an acre foot of water on the Arkansas River contributes around $358 to the state economy through non-consumptive canoeing and fishing activity. Loomis estimates that a significant decrease (around 50%) in the flow level would cut 1,000 jobs in rafting, and around 2,000 jobs in fishing and other tourism related jobs.