By Jim Pokrandt
Pat Mulroy delivers the keynote address at the DU Water Law Symposium. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs
Call her the connector in chief. That is, connector in chief of the dots. In her new role in academia and water policy, Pat Mulroy, the retired chief of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and now senior fellow for climate adaptation and environmental policy for The Brookings Institution, has poured it on in her speeches—connecting water issues across the world with relevance to the seven-state Colorado River Basin.
Is California’s drought a Colorado River Basin problem? For a state whose only reliable water sources is the Colorado River, you bet, as besieged as it is with long term drought itself. Is California’s issue with the delta smelt and inability to pump water from Northern California to the south through the State Water Project a Colorado River problem? Ditto. It puts more pressure on the Colorado River. See above.
How about Flint, Mich.’s lead-laden drinking water crisis? Is that a problem for the Southwest? Absolutely, said Mulroy. Why? “It’s not that they made a mistake, it’s that they did not say anything,” she says. That fact has eroded the public’s trust in drinking water providers.
“It is going to affect the way we manage water resources in this basin,” Mulroy said. With the decision making that still needs to be made in managing the Colorado River’s future, mistrust generated by Flint is not going to help.
Mulroy brought these messages and more to the April 8 University of Denver Water Review forum entitled “Conflicts and Cooperation: the Past, Present and Future of Interstate Water Compacts.” Find a video recording of her presentation and others here.
Don’t mistake Mulroy for a pessimist. She believes that the Colorado River Compact of 1922 has over time created a model of cooperation and collaboration among the seven states in the basin and the federal government. While locals may wonder how true that is, Mulroy has seen the credence borne out by the international interest in how the Colorado River works. “When you compare the Colorado River Basin to other parts of the world, we are the most functional water community anywhere,” said Mulroy, who has hosted delegation after delegation.
The next generation of water leaders has been handed that “legacy,” she said. “You will need to continue that partnership to deal with the stresses coming to the Compact in the next 20 years.”
Jim Pokrandt is the Community Affairs Director for the Colorado River District.
For another video presentation from Pat Mulroy and blog post from Jim Pokrandt, see his Nov. 2015 blog post “Not too late to catch Colorado River experts: Video presentations now available online.”
Learn more about the Colorado River Basin and compact through CFWE’s recent programs: