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The Value Of The Colorado River In Dollars And Cents

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A report released in January confirms California's dependence on the Colorado River.

The study, commissioned by business group Protect The Flows and led by Arizona State University economist Tim James, found a reduction of just 10 percent of water from the Colorado River would cost billions of dollars and millions of jobs. The study's authors estimate that the river is responsible for generating $1.4 trillion in economic activity, $800 billion in wages and 16 million jobs.

James told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday that he examined which industries were directly and indirectly tied to the river. For example, he looked at how agriculture relies on the water and which industries then rely on agriculture.

He estimates that Southern California would see a 55 percent to 60 percent drop in economic activity if the Colorado River ran out of water.

"We're talking significant amounts here, because the West — and in Southern California, in particular — rely heavily on the Colorado River," James said.

Ann Tartre, director of corporate partnership for Protect the Flows, said the demand for water currently outweighs supply. In 2013, advocacy organization American Rivers named the Colorado River the country's most endangered river.

"We're seeing if it (water levels) gets much lower, the Hoover Dam may not be able to generate power any longer," Tartre said. "There's some pretty significant challenges facing the river."

Colorado River - America's Most Endangered River 2013

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