Schorr will be the honorary speaker at the CSU Water Tables Event, Thursday Jan. 30, and will host a Wednesday workshop entitled “How Colorado Water Law Came to Israel” in which we will examine the effects Colorado’s water law had upon the development of water law platforms in Israel and elsewhere.
A: I was interested in determining the historical background of the Supreme Court Case Coffin vs. Left Hand Ditch Company and I decided to start looking into the history of Colorado water law. The book is about how the western United States adopted prior appropriation as a new system of water law. This is very different than water law of the Eastern United States and England. The Colorado Doctrine discusses how and why it did that.
When I started teaching law at Tel Aviv University I became interested in the history of Israeli water law. Israel is climatically similar to the Western US with long, dry seasons. They rely on irrigation for agriculture. I discovered that in the 1920-40’s, when the British reigned over this part of the world, they as well as the general population, were very interested in the water law of the Western United States. I found that Elwood Mead, an influential character in Colorado in the 1880’s, was also influential in Palestine in the early 20th century. The water law reforms by the British during this time were to a large extent based on the water law of the Western US.
Q: Can you give me an example of how Israel modeled its water law upon that of Colorado?
A: One example is the existence of water court, which does not exist everywhere in the world. Colorado adjudicates water disputes and so does Israel. A more fundamental building block of Colorado Law is the state’s control of water: water rights are private but the state government is involved in their determination. Israel adopted the idea of state control of water.
Q: Which Colorado water law precedents serve as timeless if any?
A: A water law is always changing. However, one principle in Colorado water law that has strong staying power is the idea of beneficial use- that water rights and water should be set aside for people who are actually going to use it and not for speculation by investors. That’s a principle that is influential around the world, though also contested. The competing idea is that water should be left to the forces of the market.
Q: Other than Israel what countries have modeled their law upon that of Colorado?
A: Australia was, in the late 19th century early 20th century, very interested in Colorado water law and to some extent modeled their laws after Colorado precedents. The provinces of Western Canada were also very interested.
Q: What does Colorado stand to learn from the systems of water management used in other states and countries?
A: I don’t know that Colorado necessarily needs to learn from anyone else. I’d say that the idea of water serving the public interest was originally part of the spirit of Colorado’s water law, but was never written into it. This idea has more formal legal basis in other countries and is a growing difference between Colorado law and most places in the world.