Whither the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan?

Writing something new, I’ve been looking back at some stuff I wrote a few years ago about the Colorado River.

The solution is, in a sense, straightforward. Everyone in the Colorado River Basin has to use less water. It’s possible to apply a simple arithmetic wave of the arm and say, for example, that we could bring the system into balance if everyone used 20 percent less water than they are consuming today. We know from experience, from Yuma to Las Vegas to Albuquerque, that such reductions are possible, that water-using communities are capable of surviving and even thriving with substantially less water than they use today. But no one will voluntarily take such a step without changes in the rules governing basin water use as a whole to ensure that everyone else shares the reductions as well—that any pain is truly shared. We need new rules. Absent that, we simply end up with a tragedy of the commons.

Where do those rules come from?

From the conclusion to Water is For Fighting Over, and Other Myths About Water in the West, by me, 2016, Island Press, out in paperback spring 2019

Turns out it’s hard to write new rules.


  1. You know the answer, per the Western Slope objections you noted here last week.

    Ultimately, it’s going to require a new round of Congressional action — if that happens.

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