River Beat: Rethinking the Law of the River

John McChesney, former NPR guy now at Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West, has jumped into the Law of the River discussion with a look at Doug Kenney’s work on rethinking the Law of the River:

Kenney doesn’t believe the law of the river needs to be tossed out, but he says it should be revised. Kenney stresses that the 11-year drought is not the most important problem on the river; the game changer, he says, is that demand now exceeds the river’s supply, and climate change will likely to make matters worse.

McChesney’s interest is very much focused on the effect the basin’s water problems will have on rural communities. From another post:

What you don’t often hear in these discussions is any concern about what happens to agriculture and rural life as these transfers become more common. Bruce Finley of the Denver Post took a look at that issue here. His piece focuses on the Front Range in Colorado where “about 400,000 acres in Colorado dried up between 2000 and 2005, according to U.S. Geological Survey data…

And Colorado natural resources planners anticipate losing another 500,000 to 700,000 acres of irrigated cropland by 2050.” Several small towns in the area have practically disappeared. Finley quotes Pat O’Toole, president of the Colorado-based Family Farm Alliance: “Denver’s going to double, and so is India and China and everybody else. What are we going to do to feed people if we keep taking agricultural land out of production?”

I look forward to him joining the conversation. (Disclosure: I’ve been discussing these issues with John and his colleagues, and hope to get out to Stanford later this year to continue the conversation in person.)

(see here for some stuff I wrote earlier this year on Kenney’s analysis)

One Comment

  1. Urban residents can outbid and outvote rural interests. But allocation is a social issue as well as an economic one, and farming still tugs on people’s heartstrings.

    That said, the desire forreliable cheap water will outweigh TV dreams eventually. So farmers need to lock up their rights, or convert to dryland farming.

    Chicago / California CAFO’s making ranching unprofitable? Then ranchers should get on EPA to issue CAFO regs re waste management that level the playing field.

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