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Colorado's public lands are faced with new challenges but water and land management depend on working together. Read about the relationship between water and land in Colorado and how Coloradans are converging to restore Colorado's public lands in the Spring 2018 issue of Headwaters magazine.

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

connectingdropslogo4.1Bringing you the reporting you crave over the radio airways with extras and archives on our website. Visit the audio archives or listen to the latest story on the connection between Colorado's forests, watersheds, and forest fires:

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Water Education Colorado

A Chronology of the ‘Law of the River’

1922 Colorado River Compact
Divided the Colorado River, 50-50 between the upper basin (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming) and the lower basin states (Arizona, California, and Nevada). An additional 1 million acre-feet of tributary water is allowed to the lower basin.
On a ten-year running average, the compact guarantees 75 million acre-feet of water to the lower basin, delivered at Lee Ferry, Arizona. Theoretically, the upper basin was also to receive 7.5 million acre-feet annually. However, due to the lower basin delivery guarantee, in times of shortage, the upper basin may have less water available to it.

1928 Boulder Canyon Project Act
Divided up use of the Colorado River within the lower basin states, in the annual amount of 2.8 million acre-feet to Arizona, 4.4 million acre-feet to California, and 300,000 acre-feet to Nevada. Designated the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to play the important role of lower basin ‘water master’ responsible for distributing all Colorado River water below Hoover Dam. Major water users on the Colorado River must contract for water with the U.S. Secretary of Interior for annual deliveries. Authorized construction of Hoover Dam and the All-American Canal, on the condition that six states ratify the compact.

1929 California Limitation Act
Limited California to 4.4 million acre-feet of Colorado River water annually, satisfying the conditions of the Boulder Canyon Project Act for the construction of Hoover Dam and the All-American Canal.

1931 California Seven-Party Agreement
Prioritized the use of the Colorado River within California. The first priority for 3.85 million acre-feet of water went to agricultural uses in the Imperial, Coachella, and Palo Verde areas, and the Bureau of Reclamation Yuma Project; 550,000 acre-feet went to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). If there were any surplus water still in the river, MWD was granted an additional 662,000 acre-feet and the Imperial, Coachella, and Palo Verde districts were to receive 300,000 acre-feet. This brought the state's total projected water needs up to 5.36 million acre-feet.

1944 United States-Republic of Mexico Water Treaty
Guaranteed that the United States would deliver 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water annually to the Republic of Mexico.

1948 Upper Colorado River Basin Compact
Divided up use of the Colorado River within the upper basin states, allocating the upper basin's available water as follows : 50,000 acre-feet to that portion of Arizona above Lee Ferry; of the remainder 51.75 percent to Colorado, 11.25 percent to New Mexico, 23 percent to Utah, 14 percent to Wyoming.

1956 Colorado River Storage Project Act
Authorized construction of Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah, Curecanti Dams (now called the Aspinall Unit) in Colorado, and Navajo Dam in New Mexico, for a total combined water storage capacity in excess of 30 million acre-feet. The reservoirs behind these dams hold and deliver water primarily to fulfill the upper basin's delivery obligation to the lower basin. The four-year water supply stored in these reservoirs, helps mitigate the burden of drought which falls on the upper basin due to lower basin water delivery requirements.

1963 Arizona v. California Decree of United States Supreme Court
Reaffirmed that the Boulder Canyon Project Act had divided up the lower basin's share of Colorado River between Arizona, California and Nevada. Recognized the reserved water rights of Colorado River Indian Tribes and other federal lands. Held that all uses of Colorado River water within a state, including water uses by the tribes and the federal government, should be charged against the state's allotment. Required the Secretary of Interior to approve contracts to release and deliver water to the lower basin under only three circumstances — normal, surplus, and shortage conditions.

1968 Colorado River Basin Project Act
Authorized construction of the Central Arizona Project and five water storage projects in Colorado and one in Utah. Empowered the Secretary of Interior to develop and adopt operating criteria for the coordinated management of the upper and lower basin reservoirs. Four of Colorado's five proposed water storage projects were not built — the West Divide, Fruitland Mesa, Savory Pothook, and San Miguel projects. The fifth, the Animas-La Plata Project, is now under construction.

1970 Operating Criteria for Colorado System Reservoirs
Established how the Secretary of Interior will put together the ‘Annual Operating Plan’ for the major Colorado River reservoirs (Lake Powell, Lake Mead, Flaming Gorge, Aspinall, and Navajo). Surplus water deliveries would be parceled out at 50 percent to California, 46 percent to Arizona, and 4 percent to Nevada, as outlined in the Arizona v. California decree.

1974 Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act
Implemented an agreement with the Republic of Mexico (Minute of the International Boundary and Water Commission issued in 1973) to control the salinity of the Colorado River as it flows into Mexico. Salinity control measures included construction of the Yuma desalting plant and lining of the Coachella Canal. Salinity reduction programs were also funded in the Paradox and Grand Valley areas of Colorado, Crystal Geyser area in Utah, and Las Vegas Wash in Nevada. The Salinity Control Forum monitors compliance with salinity standards at three checkpoints in the lower basin. The standards have never been exceeded.

2001 Interim Surplus Guidelines
Allowed California to continue to use surplus Colorado River water until 2016, providing a soft-landing for California while that state developed a plan to reduce water use down to its 4.4 million acre-foot entitlement.

One of the first requirements was for the main California water agencies to reduce the amount of water consumed by agriculture, and transfer some of that water to metropolitan areas. This reduction was to be negotiated in the form of a Quantitative Settlement Agreement (QSA) due December 31, 2002.

When an agreement could not be reached, the Secretary of Interior suspended the Interim Surplus Guidelines and curtailed California's 2003 orders for Colorado River water.

2003 California Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA)
Settled water deliveries among the California's four main Colorado River water agencies to keep California within its 4.4 million acre-foot entitlement. Limited the Imperial Irrigation District to 3.1 million acre-feet, and provided for water gained through irrigation efficiency improvements to be transferred to MWD and San Diego.

2003 Colorado River Water Delivery Agreement
Reinstated the Interim Surplus Guidelines. Specified the amount of water to be delivered to California's Colorado River water users, as provided in the Quantification Settlement Agreement. Signed by the Secretary of Interior, Imperial Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and San Diego Water Authority.

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