Aug 302010
Authors: Allison Sylte

Water is essential to everyday life. People use it to wash cars, take showers and irrigate lawns.

Fossil fuels are what come to mind when most think about natural resources, even though, according to experts, water is the most precious natural resource.

 “Water is the basis of civilization,” said Greg Hobbs, a Colorado Supreme Court Justice. “How we use it, conserve it, and make benefit of it is how we keep our society together.”

Hobbs spoke to an assembled group of students and community members in the Natural Resources Building Monday about Colorado’s water policy
 Hobbs studied history at Notre Dame before receiving his law degree from the University of California. Prior to becoming a judge, he taught sixth grade in New York City; spent 25 years working on water, environmental and land use law; and spent two years serving in the Peace Corps.

 He opened his discussion about water law with a dramatic poetry reading.

 “I’m a poet. I’m a history major. I’m a lawyer,” joked Hobbs. “I’ve been a poet longer than I’ve been a judge.”

 Monday’s lecture was organized by CSU’s Water Center, a collection of different departments in the university, which aims to provide information and research about Colorado’s water policy.

“Colorado is in a unique position in terms of water use, because we’re a headwater state,” said Reagan Waskom, the director of the CSU Water Center. “And, according to Colorado law, all water is a public resource.”

 Four major rivers originate in Colorado: the Platte, the Rio Grande, the Colorado and the Arkansas, and each of these rivers provide water not just to in Colorado but also in Arizona, Nebraska, Kansas and California.

 “Because of this, and Colorado’s arid landscape, Colorado simply does not have enough water,” Waskom said.

 Hobbs walked the crowd through various intrastate agreements that have been made regarding water use and the inevitable disputes that come about as a result.

He gave attendees a timeline of what led to the creation of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, as well as a case in which Colorado gave Kansas $32 million to compensate for misappropriated water.

The only way to reach settlements in water disputes, Hobbs said, lies in impartial resolution by our decision makers. Judges, he said, need to be removed from politics to make tough decisions.     

“Take a look at the way water flows. It blesses everything that it touches,” Hobbs said. “It’s not wasted.”

Staff writer Allison Sylte can be reached at

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