Last Monday Justice Greg Hobbs and law professor Larry MacDonnell were the guests of the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project. The subject was the Colorado River and its future, including Native American claims. Also discussed was the need to water population growth in Colorado and elswhere and whether or not the river has the water necessary to do so without drying up agriculture and recreation across the basin.
Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs marveled at how a river basin labeled by some early explorers as uninhabitable 150 years ago now supports 30 million people in seven states. The reason it can do that is because of the foresight of those who wrote the 1922 Colorado River Compact and subsequent legal instruments, which continue to be adapted over time.
Legal scholar Larry MacDonnell, of the University of Wyoming’s College of Law, said the water resources of the Colorado River are being squandered by unwise uses and the states should stop banking on further diversions and start looking at conserving what they now use. He advocated moving more agricultural water to urban uses to avoid the continued need to import water.
Hobbs and MacDonnell spoke on the Law of the River, and the compact documents are known, as part of the 2012 State of the Rockies Project, which is focusing on the Colorado River. The project, which includes research and field work by Colorado College staff and students, is in its ninth year. The project features a series of speakers on Colorado River issues over the next few months…
The West traditionally has brought in more water when it exhausts the natural supply, but MacDonnell believes it is time to re-evaluate how water is used instead. “Are we content with how the basin is using water?” MacDonnell asked, and then listed some instances where it is not being used wisely:
– The Imperial Valley uses one-fifth of the total volume of the Colorado River, and two-fifths of that grows alfalfa.
– A $1 billion desalinization plant treats water for $144 per acre-foot for delivery to Mexican farms.
– Water is applied at the rate of 10 acre-feet per acre to grow crops in the Arizona desert.
– One-fifth of the water stored in the lower basin simply evaporates
“Is this a sensible use of water?” MacDonnell asked. “In compromise, projects have been built that waste water.”
More Colorado River basin coverage here.