Colorado River Basin

As the collective business voice for water stewardship, our diverse network ranges from Fortune 500 companies to main-street retailers, all in support of practical solutions to water challenges. Our goal is to have balanced water policies that allow the Colorado River system, and others like it, to simultaneously support and sustain the needs of business, the environment, recreation and the overall quality of life in the region.

We work with decision makers to prioritize immediate action and conservation in decisions about the future of the Colorado River system. Water is foundational to robust tourism and recreation economies, and the quality of life driving business growth and attracting professional talent in cities and towns across the West. The economic and environmental ramifications of a depleted or dry Colorado River system are unacceptable, and the impacts are already being seen. We are working across the Colorado River Basin with local, state and federal stakeholders to move smart water policies forward, specifically on Arizona Drought Contingency Planning, the Colorado Water Plan and on Federal Colorado River issues.

The Colorado River viewed from Dead Horse Point State Park
The Colorado River viewed from Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

What's at Stake

The Colorado River is vital to the economies of the seven-state region through which it flows. An Arizona State University study documents that the Colorado River supports $1.4 trillion in economic output, $871 billion in wages and 16 million jobs annually. The river supplies drinking water to 40 million Americans and irrigates 5.7 million acres of rich farm and ranch lands. This economic engine is at risk if demand for river resources continues to outstrip supply.


ASU Study: Economic Importance of the Colorado

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Smart Water Policies and Principles

During the 2016 Business of Water summit, members of the business community helped develop a set of water policy priorities and principles designed to reduce business risk and provide water for economic, community and environmental benefit. Priorities that emerged from this process include:

• Incentivizing and removing barriers to encourage water reuse and recycling
• Encouraging conservation and efficiency
• Advancing water markets, banking and trading
• Collecting, analyzing and disseminating water data and information.

The underlying objective of these principles is to empower the business community to guide the development of sound water policies at the local, state, and regional levels. Policies that address and prioritize action on these issues are needed to sustain thriving economies in the West, maximize community livability and sustain healthy flowing rivers.

nestle“There needs to be more political will to talk about water financing, infrastructure and quality. Because water moves across local, state and regional boundaries, it is difficult for business to work in the various regulatory environments, but there is a role for them to push for more consistent policy across jurisdictions. Business needs certainty and transparency around water supply from elected officials, and there needs to be the political will to address the challenges openly and collaboratively.” Nicole Collier, Nestle

Business Leadership on Water Policy

ge-monogram_footer100x100res72“There is more potential for water reuse but it’s not happening at the level it should because it is still less expensive to take water from the ground or import it than it is to buy and implement reuse technologies. This is a case where there is a role for government to step in to encourage communities to reuse.” Jon Freedman, GE Water and Power

american-water-ca-logo“Preserving and protecting the Colorado River as a water source for future generations is imperative. By implementing smart efficiency measures such as conservation and reuse, we can make sure the Colorado River survives and thrives.” Rob MacLean, California American Water


Embracing conservation and adopting water innovations and technologies offer the most cost-effective and readily available solutions for agricultural, industrial and municipal water challenges. From the farm to the factory and front yard, American business leaders are recognizing the return on investment – for their operations and communities – in smart water use. Working with water managers, elected officials and policy makers, we can build a secure water future.

  • The region and businesses that have chosen to locate in the Southwest benefit if we conserve water and use it more efficiently.
  • Technologies and strategies already exist and are being implemented by companies, saving money and benefitting the environment.
  • Companies in our network have voluntarily set goals to reduce water usage, implemented water reuse and recycling technologies, and contributed to stream flow restoration efforts.

Case Studies from Corporate America

KB-HomeKB Home built the first “net zero energy and water” home, which reuses gray water from the home to irrigate the yard. The home is 30% more water efficient than other homes on the market. US Department of Energy Case Study

AT&T-logoAT&T found that its building operators can realize substantial water savings in cooling towers – up to 40% – in ways that provide a competitive return on investment. In one plant, a $4,000 investment resulted in $40,000 in savings. AT&T Water Management Materiality Assessment

Advocacy Work Across the West

We have positively influenced the development of the Arizona Drought Contingency Plan, the Colorado Water Plan, the Federal Farm Bill and many other issues.

Arizona Drought Contingency Plan- Decision makers including the Governor, Legislature and water agencies in Arizona have been working hard to plan for the state’s water future. To meet obligations to the federal government, leaders from Arizona, California and Nevada have come together to negotiate an agreement that will work hand-in-hand to store more water in Lake Mead. This agreement is called the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan, or LBDCP, and it is critical for long-term water security to sustain Arizona’s economic future. BWS is playing a key role in this process to ensure that Arizona business leaders remain informed and involved, and we are bringing some of the state’s biggest corporate voices to the decision making process as a final plan is negotiated. Stay tuned as the legislative session in Arizona begins January 14th! See more about our work in Arizona here.

Colorado’s Water Plan For the last 3 years, we have worked with the Governor on a plan that will provide Colorado the needed policies and funding to manage and conserve water in the 19th year of drought in the Colorado River Basin. The plan was approved in 2015 and since then we have worked to bring the business voice to the conversation to shape strategies that will implement and pay for the plan. To kick start funding for this work, the Denver Post reports that outgoing Governor John Hickenlooper requested $30 million in his final budget request for “water infrastructure over the next three years to help implement a state water plan that seeks to accommodate the needs of the growing metropolitan Front Range while ensuring agricultural areas can weather a prolonged and severe drought.” This is a great start and we are very grateful for his leadership on this issue. We are excited to work with new Governor Jared Polis and other newly elected decision makers on funding the conservation and river health elements of the plan in 2019. See more about our work in Colorado here.

Federal Water Policy- In early December Congress passed a bi-partisan Farm Bill that includes funding for drought resiliency. We worked with our partners in Washington, DC and many members of Congress supporting passage of the bill. The Farm Bill will improve access to the popular Regional Conservation Partnership Program, make it easier for western growers to access funds from the Environmental Quality Improvement Program for projects that conserve water, and remove barriers in the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations programs that will result in more watershed-wide projects to foster drought resilience.  Each of these programs will support irrigators and better address long-term drought risks in the Colorado River Basin. See more about our work at the Federal Level here.

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Corporate Voices

MGM150x36Res72“Headquartered in Nevada, we are clear that water is in increasingly short supply and we are doing everything we can to reduce water consumption through operating improvements, workforce education, community and business partnerships, and ongoing progress monitoring.” Cindy Ortega, Senior VP / Chief Sustainability Officer, MGM Resorts Intl. 

“The entire region’s economy is dependent upon getting these water issues right.” Glenn Hamer, CEO of Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry