U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- There may be a time where Colorado River water
is bought and sold in a free market, an environmental panel has
With most states living within their current allotments right now,
though, that time is still in the future, panelists said at the
annual meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association.
``There is no need for a market now,'' said Tom Hine, a
representative of the Environmental Defense Fund.
Hine said that only California exceeds its allotment, and that so
far Southern California has supplemented shortfalls with other water
from the northern part of the state.
But he said in the next 25 years both California and Nevada will
reach the point where they need more water.
Dave Getches, a professor of law at the University of Colorado
specializing in natural resource law, said market transactions will
be common place. He predicted California will purchase more water
from the northern states.
Each state on the Colorado River Basin has an allotment of
Colorado River water based on the 1928 Boulder Canyon Project Act.
California currently uses as much as a million acre feet more than
its allotment but is looking to the northern part of the state to
lessen its dependence on the Colorado River. Arizona and Nevada are
both nearing their maximum allotments of 2.8 million and 300,000 acre
An acre foot is the amount of water used by an average family of
five -- about 326,000 gallons
Because of environmental limitations placed on the Upper Basin
states of Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, they are not
expected to ever reach the full use of their allocations and will
have few options other than selling the water.
The panel also agreed that the onset of environmental concerns not
considered by previous generations of Americans are at the forefront
of any decision about water use. The problems in dealing with
environmental concerns are the conflicting demands of the public,
``The same people that are demanding to have half-acre lots
covered with Kentucky bluegrass are the same ones demanding to
protect the environment for their weekend getaways,'' said Getches.
Considering the environment as a priority is a relatively young
issue, and Hine said those on the Colorado River have done a good job
in dealing with it.
``The goals in 1928 were to divide and distribute water to help
the economies,'' said Hine. The environment adds another element to
consider in managing the river.
An estimated 600 officials gathered in Las Vegas for the
conference. Participants included agricultural interests, American
Indian leaders and state officials and water managers from the seven
Colorado River Basin states.
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