Background readings: Colorado River

Here are some helpful online resources for learning more about the Colorado River Basin.

On this page:

1922 Colorado River Compact

The 1922 Colorado River Compact is just four pages, but this critical document sets the river’s total supply at 15 million acre feet per year, defines the states that make up the upper and lower basins, allocates 7.5 million acre feet per basin annually, and introduces the legal framework for Mexico’s future allotment.

Signing of the Colorado River Compact in 1922. Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

1922 Colorado River Compact Meeting Transcripts

To finalize the 1922 compact, it took Herbert Hoover, then the Secretary of Commerce, and representatives from each of the seven basin states, 27 different meetings, spanning four different cities and 11 months. This series of documents provides a transcript for those discussions as well as other interesting anecdotes related to the deliberations that culminated in the final agreement.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment report on the Southwest

Since 2000, the federal government has released an interagency report quantifying the effects of climate change on humans and the environment. This chapter of the fourth edition of the report, released in November 2018, focuses specifically on the U.S. Southwest and discusses impacts on water resources.

Colorado River Water Users Association

CRWUA describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan organization providing a forum for exchanging ideas and perspectives on Colorado River use and management with the intent of developing and advocating common objectives, initiatives and solutions.” The group offers a timeline summarizing the Law of the River and runs an annual conference on the Colorado River.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin Water Resources Pages

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation is the primary federal agency responsible for managing water infrastructure along the Colorado River. Reclamation’s website provides historical information, contact lists, photography databases and other resources. These sites are also the official source for water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the biggest reservoirs along the Colorado River.

U.S. Department of Interior: Colorado River Basin Drought Page

This site offers an overview of the Colorado River and explores the ongoing drought in the region. The project, which was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation in support of the Department of the Interior’s Open Water Data Initiative, offers a variety of data visualizations, imagery and other tools for understanding drought’s effects on the river.

Academic organizations

There are a number of university-based programs and projects that focus on water issues and the Colorado River Basin:

Do you know of other resources on the web that would be helpful for water journalists and others? Please contact us so we can consider including them on this page.