Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap: ‘By 2005, two-thirds of the water in Lake Powell was gone, but it snowed in 2006’ — Lee Miller


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“By 2005, two-thirds of the water in Lake Powell was gone, but it snowed in 2006. What happens the next time, if 2006 doesn’t happen?” said Lee Miller, attorney for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “The first thing that happens would be litigation.”

The Colorado River might seem like an unlikely topic for the annual Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, but as Miller pointed out in a presentation Wednesday, more than half of the water for Colorado Springs and Pueblo comes from the Colorado River. Water imports from the Western Slope also provide supplemental water for agriculture in the Arkansas Valley…

Miller’s comments came on a panel of lawyers talking about the implications of a call on the Colorado River — the potential for lower basin states in the compact to demand deliveries from upstream states. Another implication could be politicians trying to reopen the compact — along the lines of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s comments to a Pueblo Chieftain reporter during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Finally, a severe drought on the Arkansas River could mean more sales of agricultural water rights on both sides of the mountains, particularly if water imports by Colorado cities are curtailed…

Colorado is working toward a statewide water plan that will look at risks to the Colorado River supply that will incorporate more than 10 years of water planning efforts within the state, [Gunnison lawyer John McClow] added.

James Eklund, an attorney for Gov. John Hickenlooper, said the law of the river is a complicated group of Supreme Court decisions, federal legislation and policy, which is anchored by the 1922 Colorado River Compact. California, Arizona and Nevada are in the lower basin, while Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are in the upper basin. There is also an international treaty with Mexico…

“It’s in vogue to say there’s not enough water in the Colorado River,” Eklund said, pointing to comments made earlier this month by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. “But they (compact negotiators in 1922) knew there would be dry years, which is why reservoirs (where Lake Mead and Lake Powell are now located) were drawn on the early maps.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

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