Major findings of this project include:
- For every 1 percent drop in reservoir levels, visits to Lake Mead and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area drop 5 percent. Since reaching peak levels in 1983, reservoir levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell have fallen 5.8 and 2.1 percent, respectively, suggesting substantial drops in tourism associated with falling lake levels.
- For every 10 percent increase in the price of gasoline, visits to parks decline about 2 percent.
- Controlling for other factors, the Cerro Grande fire accounted for a drop of more than 66,000 visits to Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.
- Visits were positively associated with relative humidity. This finding may result from the fact that the study was confined to the Southwest with very low humidity. Extremely low humidity is associated with desert as opposed to forest or grassland environments.
One example to illustrate the approach to mapping changes in regional water availability to local economic impacts. Between 1999 and 2003, the level of Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area fell 78 feet, and the number of hikers, boaters, anglers, and others who typically visit Glen Canyon fell by an estimated 212,000 visitors (controlling for other factors). We estimate that this drought-induced reduction in visits led to a loss of $14 million in local sales and nearly 300 jobs. The model can be applied to examine positive shocks as well, such as benefits of post-fire restoration efforts.