My thanks to a friend who recently pointed me, as we discussed the appropriate ways to account for Arizona’s use of tributary Colorado River water, to the above bit of history.
In the official transcript of a 1946 congressional hearing, which was then gleefully repeated down through the years (you can see it on p. 281 here) is a hilarious memento of one of the most puzzling pieces of Law of the Colorado River history.
After the main bit of Colorado River Compact business, Article III(a), allocated 7.5 million acre feet each to the Upper and Lower Basins, Article III(b) slipped in some bonus water:
In addition to the apportionment in paragraph (a), the Lower Basin is hereby given the right to increase its beneficial consumptive use of such waters by one million acre-feet per annum.
What does that mean? Who gets the extra million acre feet? From where?
It’s Arizona’s water, of course, to allow it consume within its state boundaries the waters of the Gila River and its tributaries. (Eric Kuhn and I, with the help of the folks at the University of Arizona Press, spilled no small amount of ink on the accounting for, and implications of, the use of that water.)
But in the years that followed the negotiation of the Compact, Arizona was repeatedly at pains to remind everyone that III(b) was their water. The evidence was there, in the caption to the signed photo Herbert Hoover, who headed the commission that negotiated the compact, gave W.S. Norviel, Arizona’s representative.
By 1922, Arizona was already fully using the waters of the Gila and its tributaries, and Norviel was by all accounts emphatic that any Compact agreement not jeopardize that use. The negotiations behind III(b) are poorly documented. But we have the photo, and an accompanying note, sent two days after the Compact’s 1922 signing.