August 29, 2018
John McCain Was Correct. The Colorado River Compact Should Be Re-Negotiated
In the 2008 campaign for presidency, John McCain said that the Colorado River Compact should be “re-negotiated” based on “population and changing water needs”. Denver Post: https://www.denverpost.com/2008/08/15/mccain-suggests-raiding-colorados-water/
This caused an extreme stir in Colorado, and left-leaning political organizations attacked him hard for this comment, which would appear to take water away from some states and give more to Arizona.
The story also ran nationally, here on Grist and other outlets: https://grist.org/article/like-water-and-oil/
U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, later Secretary of the Interior, reportedly said, “Over My Dead Body”.
“Senator McCain’s position on opening up the Colorado River Compact is absolutely wrong and would only happen over my dead body … It’s an anathema to the fundamental principles of Colorado’s water rights and our compacts.”
Let’s ask this: Was McCain actually correct? The Colorado River Compact was created based on population at the time, in 1922, as well as antiquated hydrology data about the real amount of water in the Colorado River. Why should it hold solid when populations have changed so much since 1922? Further, most of the best minds — science, management, and advocacy — now believe that the Colorado River Compact likely should be re-negotiated to take into account climate change, changing water and population needs, and the needs of the river itself. The recent stories about shortages in the Lower Basin, and falling reservoir levels in both Lakes Mead and Powell, indicate that the status quo must change. ICYMI, this AZCentral story yesterday: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-environment/2018/08/28/scientists-colorado-river-water-crisis-lake-powell-mead/1088871002/
A quote from Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado:
“John McCain was a maverick, and I agree with him that the Colorado River Compact needs to be re-negotiated,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado. “Population has changed, the climate is changing, and the American people now better understand that rivers need water to flow healthy, and that rivers must reach the sea.”