Equity in the Colorado River Basin: How to Sustainably Manage a Shrinking Resource
Simply put – demands for water in the Colorado River Basin exceed supply. Chronic drought, record heat, and rampant wildfires are already affecting the Basin’s overall health and resilience, and the historically low levels in Lakes Mead and Powell led to an unprecedented call on the river. These compounding challenges come at a time when several key components of the “Law of the River” are sunsetting in 2026. Key players are already revisiting the 2007 Interim Guidelines, Minute 323, and the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan. Relatedly, endangered fish recovery programs relevant to the region expire in 2023. Meanwhile, 48% of Tribal households in the U.S. do not have access to reliable water sources, clean drinking water, or basic sanitation. These harsh realities hasten the need to advance sustainable water management, improve watershed resilience, and ensure clean water access through collaborative decision-making. We look forward to bringing together diverse expertise from across the region to draw the roadmap to an equitable future in the Colorado River Basin.
Colorado Law Dean James Anaya leads a moderated conversation with Secretary Haaland and Congressman Neguse exploring both agency and legislative priorities regarding public lands and water management, resource extraction, energy development, and related tribal issues – with an environmental/climate justice lens.
Join us for a conversation among two strong voices for creative entrepreneurship who will discuss what it will take to scale up the varied technologies needed to advance an equitable clean-energy economy. Newly appointed Executive Director of the Department of Energy’s Loan Program, Jigar Shah, is a seasoned clean energy entrepreneur, author, and acclaimed podcast host known for his work to create and advocate for market-driven solutions to climate change. Among his many accomplishments, Attorney General Weiser founded the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at Colorado Law, where he catalyzed critical conversations among diverse stakeholders to propel the future of law, policy and entrepreneurship. From strategic investments and the free market, to related law and policy, Shah and Weiser will discuss transforming existing energy infrastructure, accelerating growth of utility-scale solar and wind, expanding domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles, analyzing nuclear potential, and how all of these efforts will advance technology breakthroughs and create jobs.
The 30 federally recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin depend on the Colorado and its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including cultural and religious activities, domestic, irrigation, commercial, municipal and industrial, power generation, recreation, instream flows, wildlife, and habitat restoration. Twenty-two of these tribes have recognized rights to use 3.2 million-acre feet of Colorado River system water annually, or approximately 25 percent of the Basin’s average annual water supply. In addition, 12 of the tribes have unresolved water rights claims, which will likely increase the overall volume of tribal water rights in the Basin. With the oldest water rights in the basin, tribes are poised to play a significant role in balancing water demand and supply and otherwise shaping the future of the region. Join leaders of the Water & Tribes Initiative in a conversation about the role of tribes and other sovereigns and stakeholders in advancing a sustainable vision for the Colorado River.
Marcilynn A. Burke Dean and Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and Law University of Oregon School of Law
Almost forty years ago, Dean Derrick Bell, published the book entitled, And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice. In his book, he tells a story of apparent triumphs, followed by continuing travails. He describes the United States as a place that seemingly has made great progress in its efforts to achieve racial justice, but how its facial progress actually masks and sustains systemic failures.
The challenges in the management of the nation’s natural resources, though very different (and yet not unrelated to racial justice), are nonetheless quite complex and woven into the very fabric of the nation. The country has many urgent needs with respect to energy development, preservation and conservation, climate change, and climate justice. This presentation will outline a few of the great hopes for natural resources management under the Biden Administration and this next cycle of “reform.” It will examine some of the factors that make it more likely for us to be saved or save ourselves, so that at the conclusion of the Biden Administration, we do not utter the words of the prophet Jeremiah. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Jeremiah 8:20
Dr. Steven Chu U.S. Secretary of Energy 2009-2013 William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology Stanford University
Multiple industrial and agricultural revolutions have profoundly transformed the world. Their unintended consequence is that we are changing the Earth’s climate. Recent data will be presented that indicates our climate is even more sensitive than previously known and is changing faster than ever before. In addition to climate risks, we face many challenges – like how to provide enough clean energy, water, air, and food to a world of 7.7 billion people (and likely to grow to 11 billion by 2100). Dr. Chu will discuss the technical challenges and potential solutions that could provide better paths to a sustainable future. How we transition from where we are now to where we need to be within 50 years is arguably the most pressing set of issues that science and innovation has had to address.
The relationship between healthy forests and reliable water supplies has been understood for centuries, and is increasingly important in an era of climate warming, forest disease outbreaks, and devastating fires. However, the water management community historically has not been heavily engaged in efforts to protect and restore healthy source water areas. This is now changing in many pockets throughout the West, and lessons are being learned that might suggest opportunities for broader regional efforts.
Kimery Wiltshire President, Carpe Diem West
Mike McHugh Senior Water Resources Project Manager, Aurora Water
Many members of the business community are increasingly concerned that western water scarcity is a threat to producing and selling their products, and more generally, to maintaining the healthy social and economic conditions that are needed to sustain strong economies. A variety of initiatives are now underway to address this concern, and to address water management issues both within and outside of their sphere of operations.
Mike Bernier Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, Swire Coca-Cola
Todd Reeve Chief Executive Officer,BEF/Business for Water Stewardship
Water Markets and Private Investments in Western Agriculture: A Road Forward?
Thursday, September 24th, 2020
Using market forces to shift the distribution and use of western water resources is a controversial topic. Some individuals fear that private investments in western agriculture will doom the sector, as water will inevitably flow to higher-paying uses and users in urban settings. To others, these investments allow agriculture to become more efficient and resilient, and when done correctly, can minimize any pain associated with large-scale water reallocations.
James Eklund Founder and CEO, Eklund Hanlon LLC
Peter Fleming General Counsel, Colorado River Water Conservation District
Gone are the days when funding western water needs was merely a task of gaining Congressional authorization and appropriations for new dams and reservoirs. Today, federal funds are limited, and much of what needs to happen does not involve new infrastructure. A vast toolbox of potential funding strategies are, at least theoretically, available, although many options are unproven. Many such strategies are under consideration in Colorado for implementing the State Water Plan.