On the Colorado River the Feds Carry a Big Stick. Will the States Get Hit?

The seven Colorado River basin states have until mid-August to come up with a plan to drastically cut their water use. Federal officials say the cuts are necessary to keep the river’s giant reservoirs from declining to levels where water cannot be released through their dams and hydropower production ceases. If state leaders fail to devise a plan, they could face a federal crackdown.

But while federal intervention is a key feature of Colorado River governance and management, to cajole stubborn water users into negotiating — it’s rarely tested.