As Western Coal Plants Close, What Happens To Their Water?
Coal-fired power plants are closing, or being given firm deadlines for closure, across the country. In the Western states that make up the overallocated and drought-plagued Colorado River, these facilities use a significant amount of the region's scarce water supplies.
With closure dates looming, communities are starting the contentious debate about how this newly freed up water should be put to use.
Maegan Veenstra is one of those Craig residents looking for a win-win. On a snowy February day, she dodges rolls of woven, plastic fabric as we walk through her new storefront along the city's main drag. She and her husband run Good Vibes River Gear, where they manufacture storage bags geared toward rafters, kayakers and stand up paddleboarders.
"We just want to help the economy diversify," Veenstra said. "Plenty of other people from other areas have totally gotten it and are just flocking to their rivers. But there's a slow movement here."
She said Craig is starting a transition that other communities in the West over the last century have gone through, from mining to recreation-based economies.
"It's been a boom and bust town for a long time. It's time to just kind of get away from that and be just a steady growing town," she said.
If the community is ready to double down on a new persona as a tourist destination, Veenstra said the decision is simple: leave the water in the river.
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