Here are some helpful online resources for learning more about the Colorado River Basin and Western water issues.
On this page:
- 1922 Colorado River Compact
- 1922 Colorado River Compact Meeting Transcripts
- The Fourth National Climate Assessment report on the Southwest
- Colorado River Water Users Association
- U.S. Bureau of Reclamation: Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin Water Resources Pages
- U.S. Department of Interior Colorado River Basin Drought Page
- U.S. Drought Monitor
- U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Use in the United States
- U.S. Geological Survey: Water Science School
- Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center
- Water Education Colorado
- Water Education Foundation
- Academic organizations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor releases a map showing the areas of the country that are currently in various stages of drought. The product is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This site also provides GIS data, historical drought information and useful visualizations to compare maps over time.
(See our drought dashboard for one use of this data.)
In 2015, water use in the United States was around 322 billion gallons per day. This report provides data and details on how all of that water was used and trends since 1950.
To learn more about Colorado water issues, check out these resources from Fresh Water News:
- Fact sheet on Colorado’s instream flow program
- Fact sheet on environmental flows in Colorado
- Fact sheet on the Colorado Water Plan and its financing
The Water Education Foundation offers a water encyclopedia, photos, videos, historical timelines and a tool for Californians to determine the source of their water. This site is also home to Western Water.
There are a number of university-based programs and projects that focus on water issues and the Colorado River Basin:
- Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University
- California Institute for Water Resources at the University of California
- Center for Colorado River Studies at Utah State University
- Center for Water, Earth Science and Technology at the University of Colorado Boulder
- Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California Davis
- Colorado River Research Group
- Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University
- Colorado Water Center at Colorado State University
- Columbia Water Center
- Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder
- Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment at the University of Colorado Boulder
- Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University
- Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University
- UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
- UC Water Security Security and Sustainability Research Initiative at the University of California
- Water in the West at Stanford University
- Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico
- Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona
- Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado Boulder
- Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado Boulder
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.