How do you solve a problem that nearly everyone knows exists, but no one will talk about? Or at least no one with any political power will talk about?
That seems to be the case with the Colorado River. The annual demand on the river by the seven basin states and Mexico — just more than 15 million acre feet — is more than the average annual flow. (And if you live anywhere in Boulder County, you’re part of the “demand.” About 20 percent of the city of Boulder’s water is pumped from the Colorado River’s watershed over the continental divide. If you live in most other towns in the county, your percentage is far higher.)
So something’s got to change. Which, like I said, everyone seems to know. But, then, why doesn’t it seem like anyone’s getting serious about a change? Maybe it’s because talking about changing the rules of the Colorado River is a big political landmine.
Take John McCain. Remember when he told the Pueblo Chieftan in August 2008 that the 1922 Colorado River Compact — which divvies up the river water between the seven states — should be renegotiated? If you do, you might also remember the immediate outrage from Coloradans like Ken Salazar, whose immediate reaction was, “Over my dead body” will the contract be renegotiated.
Now a handful of lawyers from the University of Colorado are looking at what rules govern the river (and this means picking through a web of complicated treaties, compacts, state laws and court rulings) and what should be changed to create a sustainable mangement plan. With no political horse in the race, the lawyers hope that their suggestion for improvements can be picked up later by politicians…. making it a safer topic to discuss. (“Hey,” the politician could say, “this wasn’t my idea… I’m just looking into this report from these lawyers.” Then after gauging the public response, he or she could say, “Hey, this was kind of my idea.”)
You get the picture. Read more about CU’s yearlong project at DailyCamera.com.