The Risk of Curtailment under the Colorado River Compact

46 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2019 Last revised: 22 Dec 2019

See all articles by Anne Castle

Anne Castle

Getches-Wilkinson Center

John Fleck

Water Resources Program

Date Written: November 8, 2019


Water supply in the Colorado River could drop so far in the next decade that the ability of the Upper Colorado River Basin states – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico – to meet their legal obligations to downstream users in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico would be in grave jeopardy.

Legal institutions designed nearly a century ago are inadequate to address the significant risk of shortfall combined with uncertainty about whose water supplies would be cut, and by how much.

This report indicates that declines in the Colorado River’s flow could force water curtailments in coming decades, posing a credible risk to Colorado communities and requiring serious consideration of insurance protection like demand management.

Keywords: Colorado River, Colorado River Compact, demand management, curtailment, Upper Basin obligations, water conservation

JEL Classification: Q01, Q25, Q28, Z18

Suggested Citation

Castle, Anne and Fleck, John, The Risk of Curtailment under the Colorado River Compact (November 8, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Anne Castle (Contact Author)

Getches-Wilkinson Center ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

John Fleck

Water Resources Program ( email )

1915 Roma NE/Economics Building
Albuquerque, NM 87131
United States

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