New ‘Thinking Like a River Basin’ Report

New ‘Thinking Like a River Basin’ Report

Submitted by Matt Clifford on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 23:57

Well, it’s finally out. After months of preparation, Carpe Diem West has released the new Colorado River report we commissioned from the University of Montana’s Center for Natural Resources and Public Policy, Thinking Like a River Basin: Leaders’ Perspectives on Options and Opportunities in Colorado River Management.

The basic idea behind the report was to get a candid assessment of the current thinking among influential water leaders on just how serious the supply and demand challenges facing the river are - and what the possible range of solutions might be.  

The results are pretty interesting. On the one hand, leaders’ views are all over the map. No surprise there - it’s a pretty diverse crowd with some pretty different interests. But we  see some positive trends in the responses.

First, pretty much everyone seems to get the message that demand has caught up with supply - or will in the near future. Even people who don’t accept that climate change is the cause recognize that demand is increasing, and that drought is becoming the new normal. While this may strike some outsiders as unremarkable, it has not always been thus on the Colorado.

Second, leaders on all sides expressed genuine pride in the tradition of collaboration that led to the 2007 Accord. While most interviewees mentioned the likely prospect of continued litigation - almost everyone saw it as a less than ideal solution, and expressed a preference for collaboration. This was true not only among the seven basin states who have had a formal seat at the negotiating table, but among many other interests as well.

Third, there was a surprising level of support for - or at least acknowledgement of - the desire of those excluded interests to have a more explicit role in governance, as they have in many other river basins. There are many interesting models for providing such a role, either within formal governance processes or through some sort of informal basin commission.

It will be interesting to gauge the reaction of the water community - both those who were interviewed, and others - to the report, and explore how it can be used to help instigate some larger conversations about basin-wide solutions to the looming supply and demand imbalances in the basin.