Click here to read the paper (John Fleck and Anne Castle). Here’s the abstract:
The Colorado River is a critical source of water supply for 40 million people in nine states spanning two nations in western North America. Overallocated in the 20th century, its problems have been compounded by climate change in the 21st century. We review the basin’s hydrologic and water management history in order to identify opportunities for adaptive governance to respond to the challenge of reduced system flows and distill the ingredients of past successes. While significant advances have been made in the first two decades of the 21st century, these past actions have not been sufficient to halt the declines in the basin’s reservoirs. We find that the mix of federal, state, and local responsibility creates challenges for adaptation but that progress can be made through a combination of detailed policy option development followed by quick action at hydrologically driven moments of opportunity. The role of directives and deadlines from federal authorities in facilitating difficult compromises is noted. The current state of dramatically decreased overall flows has opened a window of opportunity for the adoption of water management actions that move the river system toward sustainability. Specific measures, based on the existing institutional framework and on policy proposals that have circulated within the Colorado River community, are suggested.