The pulse of the river

Posted: Jun 15, 2011

Written by

CALLY CARSWELL, High Country News

For a journalist, sitting through last week's conference on the Colorado River, hosted by the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado, was a great way to take the river's pulse -- to get a sense of how the river's water czars, academic wonks, scientists and other minders are thinking about the basin's present and future.

Cooperation, flexibility and uncertainty were the buzzwords most tossed around. States need to manage the river more cooperatively (read: avoid using litigation to resolve competing water claims), interpret the Colorado River Compact more flexibly to accommodate changing conditions (read: "bend the hell" out of the compact but maintain its basic principles), and plan aggressively for the mind-bending uncertainty associated with climate change.

On these general points, managers from Colorado agreed with those from Nevada, who agreed with those from Wyoming -- which was all a little strange since the Colorado River Compact is not exactly known as a consensus building document. For an outsider like me, it was hard to tell whether the peaceful vibes were just politicking or evidence of genuine evolution. Most likely, a bit of both were at work.

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