Equity and the Colorado River Compact
Jason A. Robison
University of Wyoming College of Law
Douglas S. Kenney
University of Colorado at Boulder - Western Water Policy Program
August 26, 2012
42 Envtl. L. 1157 (2012)
The Colorado River and the elaborate body of laws governing its flows (“Law of the River”) are at critical juncture, with a formidable imbalance between water supplies and demands prompting diverse efforts to evaluate and to think anew about Colorado River governance. One such effort is the Colorado River Governance Initiative (CRGI) at the University of Colorado Law School. Incorporating CRGI research undertaken over the past two-and-a-half years, this Article focuses on the interstate compact constituting the foundation of the Law of the River, the Colorado River Compact, approaching the water apportionment scheme established by this compact as a subject of central importance in current efforts to navigate the future of the river. Lying at the base of the compact is a commitment to equity – “equitable division and apportionment of the use of the waters of the Colorado River System” – stemming from which this Article pursues a fundamental question: To what extent does the compact’s apportionment scheme fulfill this commitment to equity in its existing form? After providing an initial overview of the compact, the Article considers the meaning of “equity” as a norm, setting the stage for a subsequent examination of water supplies and demands in the basin and longstanding interpretive disputes involving the compact’s key terms. This examination reveals several equity-related concerns associated with the composition of the compact’s apportionment scheme and the governance structure devised for it. A discussion of these concerns occupies the final Part of the Article. Framing this discussion is our perspective that the compact’s commitment to equity is a venerable one, and that the concerns raised in this Part need to be addressed in ongoing dialogue about Colorado River governance in order to fulfill this commitment in contemporary times.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 53
Keywords: Colorado River, Colorado River Compact, Law of the River, equitable apportionment
Date posted: August 28, 2012 ; Last revised: February 4, 2016
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