Best of the West: Wyoming embraces the blockchain, regional water woes, arts contribute billions to Colorado

Water, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting March 12, 2018, that you don't want to miss. Image: Jerry McBride, Durango Herald

As drought and record low snowpack levels continue to impact the West, water conservation remains a top priority across the region. Unprecedented low water levels have been recorded in the Animas River in Colorado, and in California, snowpack levels are currently at 37% of normal. (But a coming storm might change that.)

Western states are approaching the challenge in new ways. Groundwater conservation efforts in Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Texas and Nebraska could effectively be implemented in California, according to a new report. Metering individual groundwater wells for the first time, as well as collecting fees from groundwater users to fund management efforts are a few of the recommendations.

In Kansas, a group of farmers began reducing their pumping from the Ogallala Aquifer five years ago, and recent findings indicate that the results did not negatively impact their bottom lines

Bitcoin Boom? Cryptocurrency will be defined as a new asset class in Wyoming after five recent bills were passed into law. As the nation’s first state to pass a bill clearly defining cryptocurrencies, Wyoming is creating new opportunities for blockchain-backed companies, according to Forbes.

Western Wildfires Rising: Increased homebuilding near wildlands since the early 1990s has contributed to rising wildfire fighting costs, according to research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “When these fires are spreading, they are much harder to fight when people are living there, because lives are at risk, because properties have to be protected” said Volker Radeloff, the leader of the study.

Culture’s Big Contribution to the Centennial State: Creative industries contribute more than $13 billion annually to the Colorado economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts. The joint study also found that arts and cultural production created 100,631 jobs in the state in 2015. Learn how other economic drivers ranked.

Happiness Lives out West: The 10 happiest cities in America are located in western states, according to a survey by WalletHub. Examining 28 key indicators of happiness from depression rate to average leisure time per day, the report listed Fremont, California, and Bismarck, North Dakota in the top two spots. See if your hometown made the list.

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