The Colorado River

This blog serves in part as a sketchbook for my ongoing research for a book on the Colorado River. Over the years I’ve written many a post that I end up Googling later as reference material. This page is my attempt to gather those key posts into a single spot – so they’re easier for me to find, and with the hope that having the basic background material in one place might be of use to others as well.

  • Simon Rifkind’s great mistake: The faulty math embedded in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in the case of Arizona v. California, which lies at the heart of today’s Colorado River over-allocation problem.
  • Why is Lake Mead dropping? From 2010, an early explanation of what has come to be publicly described as the “Lower Basin structural deficit”. Because of Rifkind’s mistake (see above), if the Upper Basin makes its legally required delivery of 8.23 million acre feet per year at Lee Ferry, the combination of Lower Basin water use, evaporation and deliveries to Mexico mean Lake Mead just keeps dropping.
  • Colorado River System Conservation Program: Launched in 2014, the System Conservation Program is a modest effort to engage in water conservation around the basin to prop up the rapidly declining levels of Lake Powell and Lake mead.
  • We’ve already given enough: Each Colorado River Basin state has a reasonable argument for why it’s already sacrificed enough. Taken together, though, if each state digs in its heels, there’s not enough water to go around.
  • Minute 319: Background on the spring 2014 environmental pulse flow in the Colorado River Delta, and the “institutional plumbing” that made it possible.
  • 1,075 – what “shortage” means on the Lower Colorado River

I’ve also begun assembling a public collection of documents I’m using in my research:


3 Comments

  1. Hi John,

    I recently started following your blog after searching for information on the Minute 319 pulse flow. Your posts are excellent. Thank you for keeping tabs on the event so others can be updated too.

    I am a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder studying environmental studies and studio arts. I’ll be graduating this May. Currently I am working on completing a thesis about the Colorado River Delta, and what perfect timing with this pulse flow event.
    I am excited about these events and felt is was necessary to send a shout out from Boulder to a fellow Colorado River advocate.

    Here’s to our rivers in the West!
    -Amorina

  2. One of the best quotesI’ve heard about water and how precious it is comes from Cynthia Valle at about 7:15 into this video about water springs in the Grand Canyon:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6yuKXKD2WI&feature=youtu.be

    Understanding water availably, and water quality is essential in understanding our most precious resource: water.

    When I see this fresh, pure water coming out of the rock, whether it be a little dripped spring or a gushing water fall, it reminds me that I too have water running through my veins, and that’s what makes me alive. From the beginning of history, we always travelled or migrated to water, and I think the moment we learned how to bring water to us, is when we forgot, in a big way, how special, and essential, and precious water is.

    —Cynthia Valle

  3. Hi, John:
    I’m only sorry I didn’t find your blog years ago.
    That omission was rectified thanks to Hannah Holm at The Water Center at Colorado Mesa University.
    I’ve covered the West for 30-plus years as a reporter for The Durango Herald and the (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel and would like to occasionally link some of my writings and articles to your blog, from which I have at times unintentionally and otherwise “referenced.”
    Thanks for your work.

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