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Modeling the influence of water levels on recreational use at lakes Mead and Powell
- Neher, Chris J., Duffield, John W., Patterson, David A.
- Lake and reservoir management 2013 v.29 no.4 pp. 233-246
- National Park Service, data collection, economic impact, lakes, models, recreation, restaurants, surface water level, surveys, water reservoirs, watersheds, Arizona, Colorado River, Lake Mead
- The Colorado River is one of the most highly developed watersheds in the United States and has relatively unique long-term datasets for both recreational visitation and water levels from Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the 2 largest reservoirs in the United States. Previous efforts to model the relationship of recreation and reservoir water levels have primarily relied on survey-based estimates of visitor response to past actual or future hypothetical water levels. We provide the first major reservoir-recreation study based entirely on long-term observed data that also include observed economic impacts. Models of volume and visitation had significant estimated parameters for lake volume explanatory variables, with an R ² of 0.97 for the Lake Powell model and 0.71 for Lake Mead. These models predicted that 100,000 additional acre-feet of water over a year are associated with 5280 additional recreational visits to Lake Powell and 13,490 visits to Lake Mead. A second model of Lake Powell volume and local area tourist spending also had a highly significant volume parameter, with an R ² of 0.91. This model predicted that a 100,000 acre-foot increase in Lake Powell volume over a year is associated with $374,000 in additional visitor spending in tourism-related sectors in Coconino County, Arizona. The Lake Powell volume-visitation and volume-spending models imply the average visitor to Lake Powell spends $71 in lodging, restaurant and bar, and amusement/recreation sectors in Coconino County. This estimate is generally consistent with independent estimates of visitor spending derived from prior National Park Service visitor surveys.