Recent remarks about the Colorado River Compact have created a stir among politicians.


Recent remarks made to the Pueblo Chieftain by Senator John McCain concerning the Colorado River Compact have caused a stir among Colorado politicians.

"I don't think there's any doubt the major, major issue is water and can be as important as oil. So the compact that is in effect, obviously, needs to be renegotiated over time amongst the interested parties," the Arizona Senator and presidential candidate told Chieftain Denver Bureau reporter Charles Ashby.

In a press conference sponsored by the Obama '08 Campaign with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter and United States Senator Ken Salazar on Wednesday, Salazar said that McCain's comments were "dangerously naive" and showed a "fundamental lack of understanding." Other reports quoted Salazar as earlier stating that the compact would be renegotiated "over his dead body." Republican Senate hopeful Bob Schaffer also said "Over my cold, dead, political carcass," according to the Denver Post.

Now it looks like McCain is backing away from those remarks, according to an Associated Press article. "He says that the remarks were misconstrued," remarked Gov. Ritter. "The word renegotiate cannot be misconstrued. His desire to renegotiate was really pretty direct." Ritter also said that voters must make note of the change in McCain's stance.

The Colorado River Compact was enacted in 1922 and divides the Colorado River into Upper and Lower Basins with the "division being at Lee Ferry on the Colorado River one mile below the Paria River in Arizona," according to http://waterknowledge.colostate.edu/1922_crc.htm.

The Lower Basin states are Arizona, California and Nevada. Small portions of New Mexico and Utah are also in this basin. The Upper River basin includes Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming with a small portion of Arizona that is above Lee Ferry.

According to waterknowledge.colostate.edu, the compact apportions "the right to exclusive beneficial consumptive use of 7.5 million acre feet of water from the Colorado River System in perpetuity to the Upper Basin and Lower Basin." It allows an addition 1.0 million acre feet per year of increased beneficial consumptive use to the Lower Basin. From surplus it provides water for Mexico. It provides that the Upper Basin states will not  cause the flow of the river at Lee Ferry, Ariz. to be depleted below "an aggregate of 75 million acre-feet for any period of ten consecutive years." It also provides that the "Upper Basin states will not withhold water and the states of the Lower Basin shall not require delivery of water which cannot reasonably be applied to domestic and agricultural uses."

Salazar said that renegotiation could risk one million acre feet of water that Colorado has the right to develop. The development of this water would make a significant impact on the Western and Eastern slope, he said.

"Senator Barack Obama wants to make sure that the contracts are sustained," said Salazar. Obama is from Illinois. At press time, the Senator's campaign office had not delivered information regarding his knowledge of Western water issues. Also, at press time, the John McCain 2008 campaign office had not answered questions regarding the Arizona senator's background in Western Water issues, nor had they commented on what evidence McCain was using to determine that the compact needed renegotiation.

In Feb. 2007 a report from the National Research Council and copyrighted by The National Academy of Sciences found that the compact needed to be adjusted to meet rapid increases in Western urban populations and significant climate warming in the region, along with periods of low stream flows. The compact states responded to this by the end of 2007 when an agreement was signed in December, 2007. This agreement fulfilled what was suggested in the report to solve current problems and to prepare for future droughts and surpluses.