In the words of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Colorado River (the River) “is experiencing a protracted multi-year drought which began in October 1999.”1 While runoff into Lake Powell has ranged from a record-low of 25 percent of normal (2002) to 162 percent of normal (2011) over the last 12 years, runoff has been below average in 9 of these years. One result of the ongoing drought has been a proliferation of media reports and academic studies on the likelihood and potential effects of future shortages in deliveries to agricultural, urban, industrial, environmental, and recreational interests that utilize water from the River. Unfortunately, in many cases, such reports and studies are written in a way that reveals that it is the first time the authors have seriously considered the issue of possible shortage. Given the complex and evolving body of legal and policy constraints governing sharing of Colorado River water in shortage, normal, and surplus conditions, the tendency of commentators has been to avoid engaging with this vast and intricate system of rules and focus instead on oversimplifying the problem and predicting crises. As a result, the conclusions that many reports draw about the future of the River are inherently flawed and rarely corrected.
Myers, M., and T. Shipman. 2012. The Potential For Future Colorado River Shortages to Impact Rosemont Operations. Memorandum. Prepared for Rosemont Copper Company. Tucson, AZ: Montgomery and Associates Water Resource Consultants. January 13.