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A ‘Grand Bargain’ on the Colorado River

Recently, Dr. Kevin Wheeler gave a highly provocative talk on ways to address the looming renegotiation of the Colorado, and confront future disputes over managing water during times of severe drought between 7 states in the southwest United States and between the United States and Mexico. At the 40th Annual Getches-Wilson Center Summer Conference, Kevin proposed limiting the consumption of the Upper Basin States to a negotiated level well below their aspirational 7.5 million acre feet (maf)/year current apportionment, while concurrently eliminating their potential risk of curtailment when deliveries to downstream states fail to reach 75 maf over 10 years, as would be required under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. By removing the risk of a such a ‘compact call’, opportunities arise to provide more reliable water deliveries to users across the basin, re-design the operation of Lake Powell and Lake Mead to improve environmental flows in the iconic Grand Canyon, and allow the states avoid a very uncertain and prolonged battle in the United States Supreme Court.

With almost twenty years of experience working on transboundary river issues, Kevin has been intimately involved in the disputes along the Colorado River, including the historical negotiations between the United States and Mexico, and recently he focuses on cooperation among the countries of the Eastern Nile River. Kevin completed his DPhil at Oxford and is an Oxford Martin Fellow on a new Transboundary Resource Management Project at the Oxford Martin School. He is associated with the Environmental Change Institute in the University of Oxford and advises for the Futures of the Colorado River Project at Utah State University.