Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Colorado Water Law - Chapter 4 Review

Back to the review of Colorado Water Law for Non-Lawyers.  Chapter 4 is an introduction to federal and interstate issues.  It largely focuses on the interstate compacts, but touches briefly on the federal water presence in the states.  It is comforting to read, for example, that outside of federal reserved water rights, all other federal water use must be within the states' water rights system.  Of course, the scope and size of federal reserved water rights is constantly a litigated concept, so this is no small concern of the states.

The Chapter seems to support the idea that water agreements between states must be approved by all the participating state legislatures and ratified by Congress.  The only other way to divide waters across state boundaries is for the U.S. Supreme Court to adjudicate said supplies when states cannot agree.  I wonder how many interstate agreements there are on water that have not had Congressional approval?

The chapter also covers some of the most important Colorado people in water in the early stages - Elwood Mead and Delph Carpenter - and concludes with a short description of the 9 interstate compacts that include Colorado's rivers.  According to the authors, there are just over 30 interstate compacts in effect at this time that involve water.  It was interesting to learn that interstate compacts between states were begun in 1777 under the Articles of Confederation, but the first interstate compact involving water was in 1922 on the Colorado River.  More later.

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