Study: Arizona Water Recreation Creates $13.5 Billion Boost

Colorado River by Yvonne Kippenberg
Yvonne Kippenberg | Colorado River

A study released this month estimates that water-related outdoor recreation in Arizona creates an economic impact of $13.5 billion annually.

The study by Audubon Arizona found that more than 1.5 million residents of the state enjoy Arizona's waterways annually and support some 114,000 jobs in the state.

“The rivers, lakes and streams of Arizona are an economic powerhouse for our state — these results prove that,” said Audubon Arizona’s policy manager, Haley Paul. “The fate of birds and people are deeply connected. Our waterways need to be protected, not only for the vital bird, fish and wildlife habitat they provide, but also to sustain Arizona’s economy today and into the future.”

Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig, whose town is supported in part by Verde River recreation, hailed the study's results. "We have always known that the Verde River is the economic backbone of the Verde Valley,” Von Gausig said in a news release by Friends of the Verde River. “Now we can quantify that the waterways of Yavapai County contribute $1 billion in economic output and support 9,400 jobs and that protecting these special places helps our local economies and communities. I am grateful our community has this data — it will be invaluable to many across the state.”

Arizona's largest county, Coconino, is perhaps best known for the Grand Canyon. The report found 329,000 Arizona residents participate in outdoor recreation along water in Coconino County, creating a $2 billion economic impact and supporting 17,000 jobs.

"Arizona’s iconic rivers — the Colorado, the San Pedro, the Verde and others — bring in visitors from all over the world who seek the one-of-a-kind recreational opportunities they provide,” said Colleen Floyd, director of research for the Arizona Office of Tourism, in the news release. “This creates significant tourism revenue for our communities and an economic incentive to preserve our waterways.”

Camping, trail sports and picknicking/relaxing were among the top water-related activities cited in the study.

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