Agricultural Studies

California and the Colorado River Compact

The Colorado River Compact was an agreement made in the 1920s that governed the use of the water rights along the river. The agreement included seven states in the United States of America, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were the upper quadrant of the division- and California, Nevada and Arizona were in the southern portion of the division.

“This historic document divided the river into the Upper and Lower basins at Lee Ferry, Arizona… Each basin was allocated consumptive use of 7.5 million acre-feet… Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were to see that the flow of the river at Lee Ferry was not depleted below 75 million acre-feet for any 10 consecutive years. Moreover, water stored in the Upper Basin that was not put to beneficial use had to remain available for use by Arizona, California and Nevada.” (CRWU, 2008).

After the Colorado River Act was signed however, various problems would arise bringing challenges to the states trying to utilize the Colorado River.

Since the compact was formed in 1922, the state of California has been allowed to use the surplus water left over from the other six states in the compact. For decades, this amount of water has been sufficient for the people of California, but as population growth has begun to become a problem in many of the states that utilize the Colorado River over the past decade, the surplus water that California has been using has been getting smaller and smaller.

Researchers suspect that with the population growth continuing at the rate it is growing, the surplus water California has been using will soon completely run out. This calls for a new look at the way states use the resources of the Colorado River.

If California’s water supply has run out, it only seems reasonable that the compact signed in 1922, almost 100 years ago- way before sustainable development was such a driving force in the United States- gets revised. California is not evenly the only state suffering from this century old established compact- Nevada is also projected to run out of water if population continues to grow in the upper basin of the Colorado River. If two of the seven states utilizing one of the largest rivers in the United States is failing to utilize properly, it only seems fitting that new infrastructure be implemented that will better benefit all of the states involved.

If California and Nevada are running out of water, it is only time before the other five states follow suit.  The United States needs to utilize sustainable development measures on the west coast and throughout the Colorado River that will not just benefit California, but measures that will benefit all of the states along the river. The Colorado River Compact was not a plan designed to withstand the test of time, and the time has come for a new approach to utilizing one of the United States most viable natural resources. California is running out of water so whether or not the laws that were made in 1922 should be changed seems like a ridiculous question. Obviously the law should be changed. Obviously the people need water. The United States wastes more resources than most of the countries across the globe, and it is time things change. It is time Americans make use of the natural resources they have around them before these resources run out.

Work Cited:

CRWUA. “The Colorado River Compact.” CRWUA Website: River Uses. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.