Wyoming State Water Plan, Wyoming Water Development Office
Rafting on Snake River Lake Marie, Snowy Mountains Wyoming Wind River Range picture


SUBJECT: Task 4. Snake/Salt River Basin Water Demand Projections
Memo 2: Future Economic and Demographic Scenarios
PREPARED BY:       Edward Harvey and Marc Carey
BBC Research & Consulting
DATE: October 17, 2002

This memorandum describes economic and demographic projections for the Snake/Salt River Basin (Basin) under three alternative scenarios. The study team's economic and demographic projections for the Basin are addressed as follows:

Information summarized in this memorandum was gathered from publicly available secondary sources and from personal and telephone interviews conducted by BBC Research & Consulting (BBC) from May through August 2002. References are listed at the end of this memorandum.

This memorandum is one of three that comprise the water demand projections for the Basin. An overview of economic and demographic conditions in the Basin, and more specific description of current conditions in key economic and water use sectors, was provided in Memo 1. The third memorandum describes the future water demand projections, based upon the economic and demographic projections detailed in this memorandum.


There are numerous approaches to developing economic and demographic projections for a regional economy, ranging from simple statistical extrapolation to sophisticated econometric modeling. The projection approaches vary in terms of complexity, the amount of information they convey, and the amount of data they require. The following paragraphs provide a description of existing economic and demographic projections for the Snake/Salt River Basin area and the study team's assessment of the appropriateness of those projections for the purposes of this study. This section concludes with an overview of the forecasting approach adopted by the study team, and reviewed by the Wyoming Water Development Commission, and an overview of the three planning scenarios that drive the subsequent projections.

Review of Existing Projections

The study team reviewed a number of existing economic and demographic projections for potential suitability for use in this study. These projections come from various sources, including:

Necessary characteristics for purposes of projecting Snake/Salt River Basin water demands include: a time horizon similar to (or longer than) the 30- year planning horizon for this study, recognition of basin-specific economic and demographic characteristics and sufficiently detailed results to allow projection of specific types of water demand (such as agricultural use). The study team found that although each of the existing projections has merit for its intended uses, none was ideally suited in isolation to the purposes of this study.

Exhibit 1, below, provides a summary of the review of each existing economic and demographic projection.

Exhibit 1. Alternative Economic and Demographic Forecasting Techniques Potentially Applicable to the Snake/Salt River Basin

Source of ProjectionGeographic
Means of
Bureau of the CensusState of Wyoming2025PopulationTrend applied to State,
Adjusted to reach national
Not sufficiently
Wyoming State DAIState of Wyoming;
Employment, Income
National model step
down to state to counties
Forecast period not
long enough
Teton County Water Supply
Master Plan
Teton County2020Population and
Households Only
Traffic Analysis ZonesPopulation and
Households only;
Not full basin
County and block
2012Many Demographic/
economic variables
Combination of local and
national data
Forcast period not
long enough
Woods & PooleState of Wyoming;
2025Many demographic/
economic variable
National model step
down to economic areas
to counties
Not sufficiently
REMIState of Wyoming;
Employment, Income
Interaction of
County/State economies
with national economy
Not sufficiently
DRI - WEFAState of Wyoming;
Employment, Income
Manufacturing trends,
county built up to state
No agriculture

Source: BBC Research & Consulting.

Economic Base Methodology

The economic and demographic projection approach adopted by the study team for this effort employs an established technique in regional economics known as "economic base analysis." The economic base approach is a "bottom-up" method that has the advantages of focusing directly on specific activities that are likely to drive economic and demographic changes in the future and providing a substantial level of detail about those activities in the future, while at the same time being less data intensive than econometric modeling approaches. Essentially, this approach involves the following five steps:

  1. Identify the existing and potential basic economic activities in the region through analysis of economic statistics and local interviews. Basic activities are defined as businesses or governmental organizations that bring money into the region from sales of goods or services to outside areas or through transfers of public funds.
  2. Identify the current statistical relationships: a) between total employment in economic base activities and other employment in the economy (termed "local service employment"); and b) between total employment and population. The latter relationship reflects the proportion of the population that is of working age, the labor force participation rate amongst the working age population and the unemployment rate as well as in-commuting or out-commuting from the area.
  3. Conduct industry studies for each of the basic economic sectors to identify trends in employment and production and factors affecting potential future growth of those sectors. These studies entail research and analysis of available industry data and local interviews. The likelihood of the emergence of new basic economic activities in the region is also assessed in this step.
  4. Develop specific projections of future basic economic activity levels based upon the results of step 3 and clearly defined scenario assumptions.
  5. Develop overall employment and population projections based upon the basic activity projections developed in step 4 and the statistical relationships developed in step 2. Potential changes in these statistical relationships in the future are also considered in this step.

Overview of Planning Scenarios

The study team developed three alternative planning scenarios for this study, employing the economic base forecasting approach just described. An overview of each of these scenarios is provided below. More specific details about the assumptions for the key sectors of agriculture and tourism and the potential interactions between these sectors in the economic base projection scenarios are provided following this overview.

High Scenario. In the simplest terms, the High Scenario incorporates the study team's views of the most growth in each of the key sectors that could potentially occur over the forecast horizon. It is remotely possible that one or more of the key sectors could grow even more than we have assumed under this case or an unforeseen, new basic economic activity could become established and flourish in the region. It is also likely that due to the interrelationships between these sectors, the growth in aggregate employment and population that drives future water demand will be somewhat moderated. However, the study team felt that the underlying aggressive assumption that each of the key sectors will achieve its highest reasonably likely growth at the same time makes this scenario a useful upper bound for subsequent water planning purposes.

Low Scenario. The Low Scenario embodies the study team's views of the lowest simultaneous growth (or largest contraction) reasonably likely to occur in each of the key sectors over the planning horizon. While even lower economic activity levels in one or more sectors are not impossible, the inverse interrelationship between the agriculture and tourism sectors likely implies that the actual growth that occurs over the planning horizon may be somewhat higher than this projection. Again, the study team felt that the assumption of simultaneous low activity levels in each of the key sectors, though somewhat artificial, made this scenario a supportable lower bound for planning purposes. While the Low Scenario obviously will not impose pressure on regional water resources, this scenario is sometimes used for purposes of determining the financial risk involved with potential water resource enhancements.

Mid Scenario. The Mid Scenario represents the study team's views of the most realistic level of growth likely to occur in each of the key sectors over the planning horizon. As in the other two scenarios, the potential interaction between the agricultural and tourism sectors are acknowledged. Although the actual economic growth experienced in the Basin may vary somewhat from this projection because of this interaction, the assumed activity levels represent, in the study team's best judgment, the rate of growth most likely to be experienced in the Basin. As such, this scenario is perhaps the most useful for water planning purposes.

Economic Base Scenario Assumptions for Key Sectors - Agriculture

Local interviews and research into both historic agricultural practices and competing environmental and recreational interests provide insight into potential factors that may influence the future of agriculture in the Snake/Salt River Basin. The factor that will most likely have the largest potential impact on Basin agriculture is the continued demand for seasonal and second home development. Other potential factors that may significantly impact agriculture within the Basin include changes in public land grazing policies such as the listing of various cutthroat trout species or the expansion of grizzly bear recovery area on USFS land (Broyles, Grows). The following are summary observations about prospects for Snake/Salt River Basin agriculture in the future.

Economic Base Scenario Assumptions for Key Sectors - Tourism

The tourism/recreational sector is the cornerstone of the economy within the Snake/Salt river basin, especially within Teton County. The two primary components of the sector are destination tourists and seasonal residents. Destination tourists are those who plan a trip specifically to visit Grand Teton National Park or some other attraction within the Basin. Seasonal residents are those who visit the area for an extended period of time because they have a second home in the area. Visitation within the Basin is highly seasonal, with the peak months generally being June through August for summer activities and January through March for winter activities. In order to gain insight into the recreational trends that affect the tourist industry within the Basin, BBC interviewed a variety of local commercial outfitters and recreational representatives from public land management agencies and representatives of local ski resorts and other resort attractions. The following are summary insights into the current recreational trends and the prospects for tourism and visitor related activities in the future, as well as a description of the underlying assumptions for the high, low and mid scenario projections.

Overall Economic and Demographic Projections

The preceding evaluations and assumptions were incorporated into a model of Snake/Salt River Basin employment and population in order to develop aggregate estimates of total residents and total jobs in 2032 under each of the three planning scenarios. As previously noted, an inverse relationship exists within the Basin between the two key water use sectors (agriculture and tourism) that is well documented (Prior and Associates, 2001; Department of the Interior, 2001). Specifically, growth in the number of visitors implies increased demand for visitor lodging and seasonal residences, which in turn drives up land values and reduces the economic viability of conventional agricultural operations. This implies decreases both in the number of irrigated agricultural acres and commercial livestock production occurring simultaneously with increases in the number of pleasure horses. In fact, such substitution has already been observed in Teton County (Resor). This inverse relationship implies the unconventional result that future levels of economic development within the Basin may be inversely proportional to future water use levels.

To simplify the analysis, the study team chose to develop projection scenarios using the more conventional (though somewhat artificial in this case) assumption that economic development for the basic sectors within the Basin is positively correlated. The primary result of this assumption is that the High and Low Scenarios represent more extreme estimates of growth (or contraction) than may actually occur. While "true" High and Low scenarios are likely to be closer to the Mid Scenario, the more extreme projections presented here are useful in that they are simpler in concept while providing clear upper and lower bounds for future water use planning purposes. Given this important caveat, the following text describes the development of overall economic and demographic projections for the Snake/Salt River Basin in 2032 under the High, Low and Mid Scenarios.

Projected Total Employment in 2032

To fully characterize the economic impact of the growth in employment under each scenario, projected employment changes for the agricultural and tourism sectors were run through an IMPLAN model for the Basin. This allowed the study team to estimate the total number of secondary jobs associated with the projected growth in these sectors within the Basin. Results from this analysis indicate that an additional 9,750 secondary jobs would be generated under the High Scenario, 430 secondary jobs under the Low Scenario and 4,020 secondary jobs under the Mid Scenario.

Projected growth in direct and secondary employment for each scenario appears below in Exhibit 12. Under the assumptions regarding changes in key economic activities described above, the study team projects that Snake/Salt River Basin employment under the High Scenario will more than double, from about 28,200 jobs at present to roughly 76,900 jobs by 2032. This increase would be completely driven by growth in tourism related employment in the Basin, as the number of agricultural jobs would remain essentially constant. Under the Low Scenario, Basin wide employment is projected to remain near current levels, increasing by only about 1,800 jobs over the 30-year projections period. Under the Mid Scenario, aggregate employment is projected to increase by roughly 19,600 jobs over the course of the projection period.

Currently, the multiplier, or ratio of total employment to direct basic employment is estimated to be approximately 1.4, indicating that each basic job supports approximately 0.4 additional jobs in local services. Higher multipliers imply relatively larger levels of supporting, indirect basic/local service employment that are characteristic of more thriving, vibrant economies. Accordingly, the study team used increasingly higher multipliers for the Mid and High Scenarios, while leaving the multiplier at the current level under the Low Scenario. Since the actual growth in total employment and corresponding population levels will be subject to the buildout capacity of the area (something that is difficult to project 30 years into the future), the study team employed conservative increases for the multipliers under these scenarios.

Exhibit 12. Current and Projected Employment Breakdown in Snake/Salt River Basin

Source: BBC estimate.

Projected Total Population in 2030

For the high, low, and mid scenarios, projections of total Snake/Salt River Basin population were derived from the preceding employment projections. Deriving the population estimates from the projected employment totals for the Basin required five steps:

  1. Net In-commuters were accounted for. This step is necessary because a significant number of workers in Teton County must commute from other locations due to the high cost of living. The study team assumed that the number of people commuting to Teton County to work from Lincoln County and Teton County Idaho would increase over the projection period.
  2. Total jobs were relied upon to estimate of the number of employed persons. This step is necessary because the employment estimates used in this study follow the conventions used by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). BEA job counts include part-time jobs and self-employment, consequently there are numerous instances of multiple job holding by individuals.
  3. Based upon the number of employed persons and projected unemployment rates, an estimate of the total labor force was derived. The unemployment rate will gradually move closer to the current national average of 4.9 percent over time.
  4. Based upon projected labor force participation rates, an estimate of the total population over the age of 16 was projected. In projecting future labor force participation rates, the study team made the assumption that participation rates in the Teton County portion of the basin would decline somewhat towards the current state average of 87 percent over the projection period.
  5. The population of ages 16 and older was utilized to project future population of all ages. The study team assumed that the current Snake/Salt River population proportion age 16 and older would move slightly towards the national average of 77 percent by the end of the projection period.

The results of these calculations are shown in Exhibit 13 below. Under the High Scenario, the Basin's population is projected to more than double, reaching just over 75,000 residents. Under the Low Scenario, population within the Basin is projected to experience very little growth over the next 30 years, reaching just over 29,000 residents. Under the Mid Scenario, population within the Basin would experience substantial growth over the next 30 years, gaining more than 20,000 additional people to reach a total of almost 47,000 residents.

Exhibit 13. Employment and Population Projections for Snake/Salt Rive Basin (Numbers Reflect Only Portions of Counties Within Basin)

* Net incommuting assumes 17 percent of Teton County employees come from Teton County Idaho and 2 percent of Teton County residents and 4 percent of Lincoln County residents work in Idaho (Prior and Associates, 2001).
** Number of employed persons is less than number of jobs due to multiple jobholding by individuals. Multiple job factors calculated by dividing State 1998 employment totals by BEA 1998 employment totals.
*** Proportion derived from Census 2000 data
Source: BBC estimate.

Exhibit 14, below, provides a graphic depiction of the three alternative population projections for the Snake/Salt River Basin.

Exhibit 14. Alternative Population Projections for Snake/Salt River Basin

Source: BBC estimate.


The study team projected three future scenarios for economic and demographic growth in the Snake/Salt River Basin, through the year 2032. All three scenarios employed an economic base modeling approach, in which prospects for the key sectors that either bring money into the region and/or are the source of substantial water use were analyzed in detail. Based upon these analyses, high, low, and middle case alternative forecasts were developed for each key sector. The growth in total employment, and the corresponding population base, was then estimated based upon the key sector projections. Due to the well documented inverse relationship for future development between the agriculture and tourism sectors, the high and low projections presented in the memo are likely more extreme but represent useful bounds for future water planners. It is the study team's judgment that the Mid Scenario is the most realistic and is the most likely scenario to occur.

The three scenarios presented in the memo portray markedly different potential futures for the region. Under the High Scenario, both the number of irrigated acres and commercial livestock within the Basin would increase modestly. In contrast, tourism related activity, expenditure and supporting employment would more than double. Under the Low Scenario, both livestock numbers and irrigated acreage would decline sharply due to continued pressure for residential development and changes in public land management policies. The tourism/visitation sector, under this scenario, would remain essentially at current levels. The Mid Scenario projects livestock animal units within the Basin to decline by roughly 33 percent, and the number of irrigated acres to decline by roughly 13 percent. Tourism activity, expenditures and employment under this scenario are expected to increase by nearly 40 percent.

Projected Snake/Salt River Basin population in 2032 under the High Scenario would reach just over 75,000 residents, compared with almost 47,000 residents under the Mid Scenario and just over 29,000 residents under the Low Scenario, which is similar to year 2002 Basin population.


Interview with Bill Collins, Teton County Planning Director, October 2001.

Interview with Levi Broyles, Vegetation Management Program Facilitator, Bridger-Teton National Forest, June 2002.

Interview with Walt Grows, Rangeland Management Specialist, Caribou-Targhee National Forrest, June 2002.

Interview with Jody Kennington, Lincoln County Executive Director, Farm Service Agency, USDA, June 2002.

Interview with Doug Powell, Natural Resource Specialist, Pinedale Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, June 2002.

Interview with Michelle Easeley, Natural Resource Specialist, Kemmerer Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, June 2002.

Interview with Alan Gray, Forage Agronomist, Director of Powell Research and Extension Center, University of Wyoming, July 2002.

Interview with Gurn Brown, retired Agricultural Extension Specialist, Lincoln County, July 2002.

Interview with Bill Resor, Owner, Snake River Ranches, BAG Member, July 2002.

Interview with Jim Maher, Teton County Brand Inspector, July 2002.

Interview with Chad Madson, Owner, Yellowstone Horses, October 2002.

Interview with Alan Rosenbaum, Manager, Pinto Ranch, October 2002.

Interview with Jim Sullivan, General Manager, Snow King Ski Area, August 2002.

Interview with Larry Williamson, General Manager, Grand Targhee Ski Area, August 2002.

Interview with Jerry Blann, General Manager, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, August 2002.

Interview with Bob O'Neil, Director of Guest Activities, Grand Teton Lodge Company, August 2002.

Interview with John King, General Manager, Signal Mountain Lodge, August 2002.

Interview with John Turner, Owner, Triangle X Ranch, August 2002.

Interview with Dick Barker, Owner, Barker Ewing Float Trips, August 2002.

Interview with Susan Marsh, Recreation Staff Officer, Bridger-Teton National Forest, August 2002.

Interview with Wendy Koelfgen, Clerk, Chief Rangers Office, GTNP, August 2002.

Interview with Kim McMahill, Concession's Specialist, Concessionaires Office, GTNP, August 2002.

Interview with Marty Myer, River Ranger, GTNP, August 2002.

Interview with Chris Wolf, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Michigan State University, August 2002.

Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Livestock Baseline Projections, February 2002. http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/baseline/.

Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Monthly data on "disappearance" of crushed soybean products for domestic consumption, 2002. Data published online at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/soybeansoilcrops/Data/table1.xls.

Grand Teton National Park, Concessionaire’s Office, unpublished data, 2002.

Grand Teton National Park, Visitor Use Statistics, published on the web at URL: http://www2.nature.nps.gov/stats/.

National Agricultural Statistics Service, Published Online Estimates Database, http://www.usda.gov/nass/ [new link 10/2009 HERE].

Nelson Engineering, unpublished data, 2002.

Pochop, Larry, Travis Teegarden, Greg Kerr, Ronald Delaney, and Victor Hasfurther, Consumptive Use and Consumptive Irrigation Requirements in Wyoming, University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service and Wyoming Water Research Center, WWRC Publication #92-06, 1992.

Sunrise Engineering, unpublished data, 2002.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Census of Agriculture, 1997. http://www.nass.usda.gov/census/.

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, 2000 Census of Population and Housing. http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html?_lang=en.

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Economic Information System, 2001. http://www.bea.doc.gov/bea/regional/reis/ [new link 10/2009 HERE]

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Employment by Industry for Lincoln and Teton Counties, 2000. Published online at http://eadiv.state.wy.us/i&e/i&e.asp.

U.S. Geologic Survey, Estimated Water Use at Dairy Farms in Gooding, Jerome and Twin alls Counties, Idaho, 1990-93. Factsheet from National Water Quality Assessment Program, published online at http://wwwidaho.wr.usgs.gov/nawqa/factsheet/MAUPIN.111.html.

Venn, Brian, Hydraulic Impacts Due to Conversion from Flood to Sprinkler Irrigation Practices, unpublished Masters Thesis, University of Wyoming, 2002.

Wyoming Agricultural Statistics, 2001, Wyoming Agricultural Statistics Service. http://www.nass.usda.gov/wy/ [new link 10/2009 HERE].

Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, Division of Economic Analysis, Profiles of General Housing Characteristics by County and Place, published online at http://eadiv.state.wy.us/housing/HU_2000.htm.

Wyoming Department of Health, Vital Statistics, various years. http://wdhfs.state.wy.us/vital_records/99DATA/menu.pdf [new link 10/2009 HERE].

Personal Interviews/Written Communications Completed in Year 2002

Barker, Dick, Barker Ewing Float Trips, August 2002.

Blann, Jerry, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Brown, Gurn, retired Agricultural Extension Specialist.

Broyles, Levi, Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Collins, Bill, Teton County Planning Department.

Dana, Frank, Starr Valley Cheese Factory.

Erickson, Ryan, Sunrise Engineering.

Gray, Alan, University of Wyoming.

Grows, Walt, Caribou Targhee National Forest.

Easeley, Michelle, Bureau of Land Management.

Kennington, Jody, Lincoln County Farm Service Agency.

King, John, Signal Mountain Lodge.

Koelfgen, Wendy, Grand Teton National Park.

Madson, Chad, Yellowstone Horses.

Maher, Jim, Teton County.

Marsh, Susan, Bridger-Teton National Forest.

McMahill, Kim, Grand Teton National Park.

Myer, Marty, Grand Teton National Park.

Norton, Bob, Nelson Engineering.

O'Neil, Bob, Grand Teton Lodge Company.

Powell, Doug, Bureau of Land Management.

Resor, Bill, Snake River Ranches.

Rosenbaum, Alan, Pinto Ranch.

Sullivan, Jim, Snow King Ski Area.

Turner, John, Triangle X Ranch.

Williamson, Larry, Grand Targhee Ski Area.

Wolf, Chris, Michigan State University.

Published Data Sources

Bureau of Economic Analysis, Full and Part-Time Employment by Industry, Teton County, Wyoming. Published on the web page for the Division of Economic Analysis at the Wyoming Department of Information and Administration at URL: http://eadiv.state.wy.us/i&e/i&e.asp.

Grazing Use and Open Space Study, Grand Teton National Park and Teton County Wyoming, Review Draft of Report submitted to Congress by United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park, February 2001.

Housing Needs Assessment, Teton County Wyoming, prepared for Teton County Housing Authority by Prior and Associates, August, 2001.

Land and Resource Management Plan, Bridger-Teton National Forest United States Forest Service.

Lincoln and Teton County IMPLAN coefficients.

Report on the Economic Impact of the Travel Industry in Wyoming, 1999, 2000 Morey and Associates/ Department of Economics, University of Wyoming

Revised Forest Plan, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Intermountain Region R-4, United States Forest Service, April 1997.

The Economic Impact of Travel on Wyoming, 1997-2001 State Estimates, Prepared for the State Office of Travel and Tourism, Dean Runyan Associates, December 2001.

Teton County Wyoming, Affordable Housing Support Study, Draft, May 2002.

Wyoming Department of Employment , Wyoming Covered Employment, Total Payroll, Annual and Weekly Wages by Region and County 1997 and 1998, Published on the web at URL: http://wydoe.state.wy.us/.

Wyoming Department of Employment, Employing Units, Employment, Total Wages, Average Weekly Wage & Annual Wages for Teton County by Division 1998, Published on the web at URL: http://wydoe.state.wy.us/.