The University of Colorado Boulder hosted the 42nd Annual Colorado Law Conference on Natural Resources on June 16th and 17th. The Colorado River was the focus of this year’s conference given the dramatic decline in the levels of Lakes Powell and Mead. 

Low Water At Lake Powell With Waheap Marina In Page Arizona

Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti partner, Peter Nichols, joined panelists in a session titled “Crafting a Rural-Tribal-Urban Social Compact in a Warming World: Lessons Learned from Around the Basin.” 

The session was covered by Jerd Smith, editor of Fresh Water News. Fresh Water News is an independent, nonpartisan news initiative of Water Education Colorado. The article titled “60 days and counting: Colorado River cutbacks achievable, experts say, as long as farm interests are on board,” talks about the major shifts in water use required to meet the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s emergency order to the Colorado River Basin states. This order has these states scrambling to innovate and come up with a water reduction plan in just 60 days. 

Nichols helped craft a large-scale farm fallowing program in the Lower Arkansas Valley, otherwise known as the Super Ditch project, which allowed farmers to lease their water when convenient in times of drought. The relevance of this project is due to the fact that farm interests control nearly 80% of the Colorado River’s supplies, and farmers will be asked to fallow land and put a price on how much that will cost other water users and the federal government. 

Nichols stated that the framework of the Super Ditch project is out there and is workable. Noting that “California’s] Metropolitan proved you can do this. But you can’t do it quickly. Reclamation has drawn a couple of lines in the sand and it has changed what we have to do and the amount of time we have to do it in.”

Fresh Water News

Read the entire article here

Other panelists of the session included:

Doug Kenney (Moderator)

Western Water Policy Program Director (Retired) 

Getches-Wilkinson Center 

Lorelei Cloud Leadership Team, Colorado River Water and Tribes Initiative Indigenous Women’s Leadership Network 

Councilwoman, Southern Ute Tribal Council 

James Eklund 


Sherman and Howard 

Bill Hasencamp

Manager, Colorado River Resources 

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California 

Hannah Holm 

Associate Director for Policy, Southwest Region 

American Rivers 

Sharon Megdal 

Director University of Arizona 

Water Resources Research Center