Most interstate river compacts in the western United States establish unwavering water distribution and diversion guidelines. However, the Arkansas River Compact is a special case designed to protect pre-existing water rights in both states from future depletion without quantifying the guidelines. During the 1985 case, it took nearly four years to determine that Colorado had in fact violated the compact, in part due to its nebulous language.
The compact itself is the result of the 1928-1943 Colorado v. Kansas litigation, through which irrigators in Colorado sought to close a loophole that allowed Kansas irrigators to sue at any appearance of inequitable water use.
By no means are interstate compact negotiations a simple process. They take numerous meetings and measures of interpersonal finesse, as evidenced by…
Collection Citation: Arthur Littleworth Papers