Business Leadership

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. We keep businesses informed on policy news and issues and help them engage through meetings, lobby days and media opportunities at the federal, state and local levels. Our goal is balanced water policies at the local, state and federal level 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 of the aridification of the West are already being seen. We work 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 passage of the Arizona Drought Contingency Plan, efforts to fund the Colorado Water Plan, the Federal Farm Bill and many other policy issues. See below for our specific work in these three areas:

Arizona Drought Contingency Plan-  In January 2019, Governor Ducey signed the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) into law.  This landmark legislation allowed the passage of a system-wide plan to help protect and stabilize the Colorado River and Arizona’s water supplies. The business voice was critical in supporting the passage of the DCP legislation. Companies from all regions and sectors of Arizona’s economy played an active role in advocating in support of the legislation to secure Arizona’s water future. The passage of the DCP legislation in Arizona would not have been possible without the strong support of nearly every sector of water-users statewide, including the business community.

With the 2019 legislative session closed, we look ahead at what is next for Arizona as it relates to water and business interests.  Arizona is a growing economy, attracting new businesses every day, and the business voice remains critical to shape our water future.  See more about our work in Arizona here.

Colorado’s Water Plan The Colorado Water Plan 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. There is no dedicated funding stream to pay for the conservation and efficiency measures in the plan. Those costs are estimated to be about $100 million a year. BWS is working to secure a funding stream for these projects as they are critical to ensure river health, strong communities and a strong state economy. See more about our work in Colorado here.

Federal Water Policy- Proving that water truly is a bi-partisan issue in the Spring of 2019 Congress passed landmark, bipartisan legislation to protect the Colorado River and the nearly 1 in 8 Americans that rely on it for their drinking water and livelihoods. The legislation was signed by the President on April 16, 2019 and provides crucial stability for American companies, communities and ecosystems across the West. The passage of this “Drought Contingency Plan” illustrates how businesses can help lawmakers find common ground across the aisle, and work with them to develop policies that safeguard the natural resources that are vital to our economy. It is a testament to the power of our network. 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