The Colorado River Compact
Comment of the Day

July 18 2022

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Colorado River Compact

This article form Pennsylvania State University may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Of course, the specification of an absolute amount of water to each of the states and Mexico has raised a few serious problems that remain contentious. First, the river is over-allocated. The 1920’s – coincidentally the time that the Compact was negotiated was an anomalously wet period with annual flows as high as ~20 million acre-feet (Figures17-18). In contrast, the long-term mean discharge of the river is about 15 million acre-feet, yet 16.5 million are allocated. Furthermore, the river flow is highly variable and based on historical data and tree ring reconstructions, it seems that decades-long dry periods with flows less than 13-14 million acre-feet may be common. Second, climate projections indicate that the region will become drier in the long-term, and some have suggested that we have already entered an era of steadily declining river flows along the Colorado. Fourth, improved understanding and renewed interest in the environmental impact of decades of dramatically reduced flow have spurred new pressures to allocate some discharge for the natural system. Finally, demand is likely to increase as populations in the region continue to grow, further stressing the already over-allocated river (Figure 18).

Eoin Treacy's view

This article from Ceres may also be of interest. Here is a section:

Agriculture uses approximately 80% of the Colorado River’s water, using it to irrigate 15% of the nation’s farmland, and produce 90% of the winter vegetables. Wheat, corn, berries, and fresh produce are likely to be particularly strained by supply rationing to manage water-stress, as well as the crops, including alfalfa and hay, used by farmers to feed cattle. A recent study found that the largest consumer of river water in the Western U.S. is irrigation for cattle-feed crops. 

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