AWRA Water Blog

Colorado River Plumbing Made Easy

Shill alert! I have no formal affiliation with the High Country News (except as a faithful subscriber) but you won’t know it from the following post.

Oh, yeah, the writing is great and I frequently cite articles in my classes.

The High Country News has once again done us Colorado River WaterWonks a great service: updated its classic Colorado River Plumbing poster. The venerable Colorado, recently named the USA’s most endangered river by American Rivers, is often hailed (or lamented) as the USA’s (or world’s) ‘hardest-working river’ – especially given its relatively meager discharge.

51KBxiZLLEL._SL500_SY300_Although I live in the lush Willamette Valley of western Oregon, the Coloradois my favorite river, bar none (Truckee River of NV-CA a close second). Its basin is where I was first exposed to the vagaries and oddities of Western water law. It traverses some of the world’s most spectacular scenery (love the canyon country!).

Consider that the Willamette River, near whose banks I live, has a watershed about 5% of the Colorado’s basin but a mean annual discharge about 70% greater  – 25 MAF. And the mighty Columbia, with a watershed the same size as the Colorado’s (about 250,000 square miles), has a mean annual discharge about 14 times greater – 200 MAF.

In any case, the poster is being offered as an inducement  to recruit more subscribers. It first appeared in Fall 1986 in a four-part series, “Western Water Made Simple” (love that title – talk about chutzpah, and perhaps irony). I first saw it in the book version of that series.


Alas, it does not appear that the poster can be obtained without participating in the subscription promotion. I think that is unfortunate; HCN could probably sell a zillion of these things. I’ve written boss-man Paul Larmer to see if HCN will reconsider. Otherwise, I just may have to buy some gift subscriptions, another way to obtain it.

But doing that would be well worth the cost.

“Uphill: The natural direction that Western water flows, providing there is money uphill.” – Ed Quillen, Western Water Made Simple, p. 193.

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