The Colorado River Compact is turning 100. These CSU resources will help you better understand water in the West

Colorado River Compact

One hundred years after leaders from seven western states gathered to sign what was at the time a historic agreement, the Colorado River is once again at a breaking point. 

The federal government is now paying communities in California, Arizona and Nevada to avoid using water from the Colorado River, and hydropower production has fallen due to historically low levels in the nation’s largest dams.

This is leading some experts to advocate for making changes to the Colorado River Compact, which was signed on Nov. 24, 1922. 

Ahead of this anniversary, here’s a look at Colorado State University resources and water experts who can provide insight on the history of the compact, the state of water in the West and what’s next for the Colorado River. 

Dropping Lake Mead water levels

A comparison of water levels on Lake Mead from 2000 to 2022. (Photo courtesy NASA) 

The Water Resources Archive 

Water history archive collage

The CSU Water Resources Archive is a joint effort between CSU Libraries and the Colorado Water Center. It is home to numerous primary materials related to the history of the Colorado River Compact – including a copy of the 1922 document itself. 

Patty Rettig, the archivist for the collection, shared a look at some of the significant historical documents at CSU Libraries. See them below, and click the photos and links in the text to access the versions on the archive’s website. 

For media: High-resolution video of the Colorado River Compact and other items in the CSU Water Resources Archive is available here:

A signed copy of the Colorado River Compact is housed in the Water Resources Archive at CSU Libraries:

Delph Carpenter, the Colorado man considered the architect of the Colorado River Compact, kept a preliminary version of the document:

Delph Carpenter wrote down his own sketch of the events that led up to the creation of the Colorado River Compact:

Delph Carpenter’s official report to the state of Colorado regarding the successful signing of the Colorado River Compact:

Delph Carpenter's diary

CSU Libraries has the diary kept by Delph Carpenter in 1922 detailing his travels to Washington D.C. for the Colorado River Compact Commission. See the full text here:

More of his family papers are available here:

Delph Carpenter portrait

The collection is home to multiple official portraits of Delph Carpenter.

Colorado River Commission

This 1922 photo shows all of the members of the Colorado River Commission. Standing left to right are: Delph E. Carpenter (Colorado), James G. Scrugham (Nevada), R. E. Caldwell (Utah), Frank C. Emerson (Wyoming), Stephen B. Davis, Jr. (New Mexico), W. F. McClure (California) and W. S. Norviel, (Arizona). Seated: Gov. Emmet D. Boyle (Nevada), Gov. Oliver H. Shoup (Colorado), Herbert Hoover (federal representative and chair) and Gov. Merritt C. Mecham (New Mexico). The governors were not members of the Commission.

Colorado River Map

This 1922 map of the Colorado portion of the Colorado River Basin shows irrigated areas, irrigable areas, constructed and projected reservoirs, hydroelectric power plants and constructed and projected trans-mountain diversions.

This chart from 1919-1922 shows irrigated acres and water supply needs in the Colorado River Basin.

President Herbert Hoover wrote a letter to Delph Carpenter praising him for his role in the signing of the Colorado River Compact:

President Herbert Hoover sent Delph Carpenter a telegram shortly after the signing of the Colorado River Compact congratulating him on the accomplishment:

For media: High-resolution video of the Colorado River Compact and other items in the CSU Water Resources Archive is available here:

Colorado Water Center

The Colorado Water Center is one of 54 Water Resources Research Institutes created by the Water Resources Act of 1964.

The Center leads interdisciplinary research, education and outreach efforts to address complex and evolving water-related challenges in Colorado and beyond by fostering collaboration between higher education and water stakeholders, synthesizing objective water knowledge to inform decision-making – inspiring the next generation of water leaders.

For a full list of Colorado Water Center experts, visit:

Water in the West Symposium

The Water in the West Symposium will bring together speakers and audiences from multiple audiences who will share best practices and connect professionals in pursuit of finding solutions to the most pressing water problems.

Fittingly, this year’s theme is “Global Water: Successes and Solutions,” and is drawing speakers from around Colorado and the world.

The Symposium is happening at the Seawell Ballroom in downtown Denver from Nov. 2 to Nov. 3. Find out more information here:

CSU Water Experts

Colorado Water Center

John Tracy, director

Tracy joined the Colorado Water Center in July 2022, and previously served as the director of the Texas Water Resources Institute.

Tracy has spent most of his career at land-grant institutions, addressing water, land and environmental resources management issues, working with a diverse range of agencies and stakeholders. He has served in leadership positions at water institutes in Texas, Idaho, and Nevada, as well as on the boards of the American Water Resources Association and the National Institutes for Water Resources.

Tracy holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and master’s in civil engineering, both from the Univ. of California at Davis, and a bachelor’s in civil engineering from CSU.

Jennifer Gimbel, senior water policy scholar

Gimbel is currently focused on Colorado River issues, with an emphasis on the Upper Basin. She has experience in law and policy on national and state water issues, and was the principal deputy assistant secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior, overseeing the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Reclamation. As a water lawyer, she worked for the Attorney General’s Offices in Wyoming and Colorado. She has over 30 years of experience on water issues.

Patty Rettig, head archivist for the Water Resources Archive

Rettig has built an archive that holds over 100 distinct collections documenting Colorado’s water heritage by engaging with the water community across the state. This involves working with people throughout the university as well as with state and federal agencies, ditch companies, businesses and individuals, and has been with the Water Resources Archive since its beginning in 2001. She works with stakeholders across the state to preserve historical documents related to Colorado’s water resources.

Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering

Becky Bolinger, assistant state climatologist 

Bolinger is Colorado’s assistant state climatologist. In that role, she monitors Colorado climate, communicates climate information to the public, gives historical perspective to weather events, and responds to media and data requests.

Bolinger has led many of the Colorado Climate Center’s drought efforts, representing the CCC at stakeholder meetings.

Bolinger first came to CSU in 2009 as a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric Science, where she studied the hydroclimate of the western U.S., and particularly the Upper Colorado River Basin. During her time as a graduate student, she also worked closely with the CCC on drought assessment and early warning.

Frances Davenport, assistant professor, civil and environmental engineering 

Davenport’s research looks into questions related to the global climate and hydrologic cycles, extreme climate events, water resources, and climate change impacts on human and natural systems. 

Her recent projects have included analyzing the causes of increasing extreme precipitation in the U.S. Midwest, understanding the consequences of less snow in the western U.S., and quantifying the economic damages associated with climate change. 

Neil Grigg, professor of civil and environmental engineering 

Grigg’s research involves water management and institutions, water rights, water supplies, state water planning, water law, policy and regulation, infrastructure development and water security. 

He has also researched public works and utility management. 

Ryan Morrison, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering 

Morrison’s research focuses on environmental flows and riverscape modifications, specifically how to sustainably integrate ecological and human needs in water resource management. 

His work emphasizes the impacts of river management on aquatic ecosystems while exploring new methods for mitigating management effects. Prior to joining CSU, he was a research engineer for the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Peter Nelson, associate professor, civil and environmental engineering 

Nelson’s research delves into post-wildfire hydrology and soil transformation in burn scars, as well as the effects on dams on river morphology and habitat. He serves on the SEDHYD Sedimentation Committee and on the National Reservoir Sedimentation and Sustainability Team. 

Tiezheng Tong, assistant professor civil and environmental engineering 

Tong’s research involves using membrane technologies to purify water that is especially challenging to transform into clean, safe water. He also evaluates how to use data-driven approaches to promote water sustainability. 

Warner College of Natural Resources

Steven Fassnacht, professor of snow hydrology

Fassnacht’s research examines the how snow and related properties vary over space and time, and what that means for water resources, especially during flood and drought. This also relates to the quality of that water to ensure all people have adequate access to this invaluable resource.

Stephanie Kampf, professor of ecosystem science and sustainability

Kampf, a member of the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at CSU, is working to understand how headwater streams function across the diverse landscape of the West, including high mountains, forests, deserts and cities.

Ellen Wohl, professor of geology 

Wohl received a bachelor’s in geology from Arizona State University and a Ph.D in geosciences from the University of Arizona. Her research focuses on physical processes and forms in river channels and floodplains, and how these interact with biogeochemistry and ecological and human communities. She has conducted field work in rivers within the Colorado River watershed in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. This research has examined channel and floodplain geometry, the role of large wood in channels and floodplains, and records of prehistoric floods.

College of Liberal Arts

Stephen Mumme, professor of political science

Mumme specializes in comparative environmental politics and policy, with an emphasis on the Mexican government and U.S. – Mexico relations. Since he joined CSU in 1983, much of his work has centered on water and environmental management along the U.S.- Mexico border.