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Water shortages in the West: ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’

June 14, 2011 Comments off

coloradoindependent

An extraordinary set of circumstances produced the Colorado River Compact of 1922. The question now is whether the compact and other laws and treaties collectively called the Law of the River are sufficiently resilient to prevent teeth-barring among the seven states of the basin in circumstances that during the 21st century may be even more extraordinary.

For the most part, speakers at a recent conference sponsored by the University of Colorado Natural Resources Law Center agreed that there’s no need to start over even if future circumstances will require states of the Southwest to “bend the hell out of it,” in the words of law professor Douglas Kenney.

Kenney, director of the law school’s Western Water Policy Program, last winter released the first part of a several-tiered study of challenges to administration of the river. Obscured by drought that had left Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, reduced to its lowest level since 1938, demand had quietly crept up and overtaken supply during the last decade, he said.

Despite occasional wet years such as the current one, climate-change projections foresee significantly hotter temperatures and perhaps a 9 percent decline in water volume during coming decades, according to the newest study issued this spring by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

DeBecque Canyon on the Colorado River near Palisade (Best)

Some people believe earlier spring, warmer temperatures, and the extended drought of the last decade are harbingersof Read more…