RWR Economic Impacts
The Valley’s Economic Engine
Every aspect of the economy is tied to agriculture, which is tied to water. The agricultural economy is what fuels our cities and towns and support businesses.
The roughly 1,600 farms and ranches in the Valley accounted for $369.7 million market value of products sold in 2017. Agriculture is the largest private employer in the San Luis Valley, providing 16.6 percent of all jobs. Four different agricultural sectors rank among the top ten sectors for economic output in the Valley:
The impacts of irrigated agriculture ripple out across the Valley beyond farmers and ranchers. Increased crops sales translate to more jobs. For example, every $1 million of potato sales is the equivalent of 10.4 full-time jobs.
None of these crops could be grown without local water for irrigation.
Agriculture plays a key role in Colorado's economy as a whole:
Economic Impacts to the Valley from RWR Proposal
RWR's proposed purchase of farmer's water rights would dry up at least 22,000 acres of farmland and is projected to drain $53 million from agriculture annually out of the San Luis Valley. In exchange for the diversion, RWR is promising a one-time, $50 million community fund, compared to the $1 billion that agriculture contributes to the Valley’s economy every year.
In addition to the agricultural impacts, the proposed project would also negatively impact the significant economic contributions of Valley tourism. Local hot springs, the sand dunes and local wildlife play a key role in drawing visitors that shop, dine and stay in our towns. Valley View, Joyful Journey, and the Sand Dunes Pool are all within close proximity to RWR's proposed well field and supplied by confined wells. The combined total revenue of these three hot springs is $5 million. The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve contains important groundwater connected ecosystems and is also a major tourism destination in the Valley. In 2021, 530,000 people visited the Sand Dunes, the highest recorded visitation. In addition the confined aquifer pumping could impact habitat for birds, fish, and wildlife. Of note is the reliance of the Sandhill Crane on the Valley's wetlands. A 2021 Survey determined the annual economic input to the Valley of people viewing the Spring Migration of the cranes is $3,349,885.