Could the #ColoradoRiver Compact adapt to go with the flow? — GreenWire #COriver #aridification

Lake Powell boat ramp at Page, Arizona, December 17, 2021. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Click the link to read the article on the GreenWire website (Jennifer Yachnin). Here’s an excerpt:

Despite its status as the cornerstone of the “Law of the River” — the various agreements that dictate how the water is managed between seven basin states and Mexico — some key provisions in the Colorado River Compact remain unsettled.

“There are a lot of unresolved questions and much more complexity then you frequently read in the newspaper about characterizations of the compact,” Anne Castle, a former Interior Department assistant secretary for water and science, explained in March at the University of Utah’s Wallace Stegner Center annual symposium…

But a new compact would require a time-consuming, potentially fraught, political process, featuring interstate negotiations and then state legislative and congressional approvals. That’s why as the Bureau of Reclamation looks to begin work on the Colorado River Basin’s post-2025 operating plan, some observers suggest now is the time to instead rethink how states interpret the compact’s existing language, and apply those new definitions going forward. Those tweaks could ensure the seven states share the burden of a smaller river equally, alleviating potentially significant cuts to water use in the upper basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming…

Map credit: AGU

“You would think with a 100-year-old document that we would know what it meant,” Brad Udall, the senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute, recently told E&E News…

One of the most significant unsettled points in the compact centers on whether the document includes a “delivery obligation” for the upper basin states to ensure a consistent amount of water flows to the trio of lower basin states.

“The conventional wisdom in the 20th century by legal scholars was it was a hard and fast delivery obligation,” Udall explained, and later added: “The upper basin has never agreed” with that interpretation.

Without a [reimagining] of that provision — one that doesn’t insist on a specific delivery each decade regardless of persistent drought or diminished precipitation — water managers have expressed concern the upper basin states would bear the brunt of climate change impacts, cutting water to users in their quartet of states to ensure downstream flows remain at potentially unsustainable levels.

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