Mulroy: We don’t need to tear up the compact

John McChesney has posted a great interview with Pat Mulroy, head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, about future directions for Colorado River management. She’s the most vocal proponent for mechanisms that might allow sharing of shortages among water users across the Colorado River basin, rather than a strict prior appropriation approach where junior users get cut off completely before senior users suffer any losses. She argues this can be done without abandoning or rewriting the Colorado River compact, but rather that it can be accomplished within the existing legal framework:

I think there are enough flexibilities in this that we can overcome these first-in-time, first-in-right provisions that we hang on to so dearly. I mean, for example, we are paying the state of Arizona 350 million dollars to store their unused water in their groundwater basins for our future use. We’re covering their cost. That allows us during shortages, to the extent that Phoenix, Tucson, their cities aren’t shorted, to be able to take water out of that groundwater basin. During Metropolitan’s shortage period all the water we were conserving in southern Nevada we were giving to southern California with the understanding that one day when we needed it we would get it back. It’s that kind of relationship that will start blurring and muting the negative effects of the first in time first in right doctrine.

I recommend reading the whole thing.


  1. Pat is running backwards. Tear up the compact and let existing rights be sold in an open market. Vegas will save beaucoup bucks (and time). $ will go to rights holders, of course.

  2. For the hand she’s been given, masterfully played.

    @David: You’re right, of course. Water will follow $$$.

    The Compact, if abandoned, opens new doors. Kind of like opening Pandora’s Box. Open it and the dynamics change.

    I read John McChesney’s interview. Pat’s answers were carefully crafted. She didn’t allow the discussion to go off course.

    Come to think of it, Pat is a lot like Mrs. Grady. I see the similarities.


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