As the Colorado River Shrinks, Can the Basin Find an Equitable Solution in Sharing the River’s Waters?

Impacts from climate change and two decades of drought on the Colorado River are fueling fears that states in the Upper Basin – Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming – could be forced to curtail their own water use to fulfill obligations under the century-old Colorado River Compact to send a certain amount of water downstream to the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada.

There has never been a so-called “Compact call” on the river. But as evidence grows that the river isn’t yielding the water assumed by the 1922 Colorado River Compact, questions arise about whether a Compact call may be coming, or whether the states and water interests, drawing on decades of sometimes difficult collaboration, can avert a river war that ends up in court.