Colorado Water History
Interstate River Compacts: Topic Breakdown
The 1922 Colorado River Compact was the first interstate agreement to determine how states would share a stream. The seven basin states joined together to negotiate the legal agreement that now serves as the foundation of the "Law of the River." Several similar compacts followed for the state of Colorado as well as other western states, and the idea has extended to the eastern U.S., which has very different water laws, as well as to other countries.
Colorado water lawyer Delph Carpenter proposed the compact idea in 1920 and subsequently drafted and negotiated the Colorado River Compact and others. Understanding the background of the idea and its evolution is an important part of understanding western water issues.
Document: True copy, Colorado River Compact, 1922. From the Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family.
Interstate River Compacts: Best Books
Interstate River Compacts: Relevant Collections
Resources related to the origin and outcomes of interstate compacts are always of high interest. The Water Resources Archive has an abundance of historical materials on the topic! The following is a list of the key collections and the main compacts and related court cases they cover.
Delph E. Carpenter and Family – Colorado, South Platte, North Platte, La Plata, Arkansas, and Rio Grande compacts. Also, origins of the interstate river compact idea and several interstate court cases.
- Looking for background on the Perkins County Canal? Explore some digitized documents on the South Platte River Compact that include mention of the canal, along with the 1931 Hinderlider report.
Ival V. Goslin – Colorado River and Upper Colorado River compacts, as well as the topic generally
Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr. – mostly the Colorado River Compact with some on the Upper Colorado River Compact
Charles W. Howe – Pecos River Compact (Texas vs. New Mexico)
Arthur L. Littleworth – Arkansas River Compact (Kansas vs. Colorado)
George William Sherk – all the compacts! Sherk did a nationwide study of interstate river compacts. He also worked on a number of related court cases, including Florida vs. Georgia.
Royce J. Tipton – Colorado River Compact, Pecos River Compact, and Arizona vs. California
Daniel Tyler – same as the Carpenter listing, as Dr. Tyler wrote his biography
Interstate River Compacts: Starting Points
These documents are starting points to understand the history of the Colorado River Compact, all within the Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family:
Colorado River Compact (1922) - "true copy"
Colorado River Compact, preliminary draft no. 1 (1922)
Colorado River Compact: Sketch of events and causes leading to creation of the Colorado River Commission (1934)
Report of Delph E. Carpenter, commissioner for the state of Colorado, in re Colorado River Compact (1922)
Map: Colorado portion of Colorado River basin
Colorado River data chart in report by R. I. Meeker (1922)
Herbert Hoover letter to Delph Carpenter (June 29, 1929)
Herbert Hoover telegram to Delph Carpenter (Apr. 3, 1923)