The crossed border disputes over sharing Colorado River between the American Southwestern States: A sociological perspective on environmental policies

Murielle Coeurdray, Visiting researcher, iGLOBES (CNRS/University of Arizona); Joan Cortinas Muñoz, Visiting researcher, iGLOBES (CNRS/University of Arizona); Franck Poupeau, Director, iGLOBES (CNRS/University of Arizona); Brian O’Neill, Research Assistant, iGLOBES/Water Ressources Research Center (Univ. of Arizona)

The sharing of the Colorado waters has always been a cross-border issue between Arizona and California since the beginning of the 20th century. The current drought faced by these two states has reignited the tensions on both sides of the border. Our guiding thesis is: the territorial struggles in the past between Arizona and California still serve as structuring elements for current drought issues in the West. We start this article by highlighting the complex and multilevel decision-making process related to the USA water policies. Secondly to illustrate this point, we draw on exemplary career profiles and lobbying actions, in order to show this territorial competition between states over water resources. Thirdly, we show how tensions between the states over how the Colorado River should be shared were politically neutralized in the 1970’s. In conclusion, however, we stress that the tensions in the past over water resources between California and Arizona keep on structuring the debates over current drought issues in the West.

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