Stephen B. Davis Jr., Back From the Dead?

There’s some water geek hilarity over on the New Mexico Independent today correcting V.B. Price on a point of history and water law.

First Price:

New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming — the “upper basin” states in the Colorado Compact of 1922 — have “junior” water rights to California, Arizona, and Nevada, the states that comprise the “lower basin.” And that means in a crisis, upper basin states won’t get their water until lower basin states have their’s.

Not exactly, says a commenter who identifies himself as “Steve Davis”.

Do you honestly think I’d negotiate a compact that made New Mexico a “junior” water user? That was exactly the situation we were in before the compact was in place! We were going to be “junior” because California was going to develop faster than us and therefore be more senior. We negotiated the compact to PROTECT us from the situation you describe in your article. We get to use our water “in perpetuity” subject only to our obligation not to deplete the flow of the river below 75 million acre-feet over a ten year period at Lee Ferry (we’ve never violated this obligation). California is “senior” only to Arizona and Nevada by virtue of the Colorado River Basin Project Act (1968) but I’m not posting from the dead to give you a history lesson. I suggest you go back and read the compact (it’s not that long) and try to avoid trampling your forefathers next time you want to spice up a water story.

Stephen B. Davis Jr. was a New Mexico Supreme Court justice who represented the state in 1922 on the commission that negotiated the Compact. Davis was, in the words of New Mexico water historian Ira Clark, “a recognized authority on water law.” He seems to be squirming in his grave.

Colorado Compact Commission

Colorado Compact Commission

I think that’s “Steve,” second from the right. Who am I to question him on this? He is, after all, “a recognized authority on water law.”

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