John Hickenlooper has been quietly convening Colorado River Basin senators to discuss Western water woes |

John Hickenlooper has been quietly convening Colorado River Basin senators to discuss Western water woes

Hickenlooper said the caucus is looking to formalize itself with a chair and subchairs from the upper and lower Colorado River Basin

Jesse Paul
The Colorado Sun
U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper speaks to the press during an event regarding new federal funding slated for Interstate 70’s Floyd Hill in Clear Creek County on Feb. 23, 2022.
Andy Colwell/Special to The Colorado Sun

WASHINGTON, D.C. — John Hickenlooper has been quietly convening fellow U.S. senators from six other Colorado River Basin states over the past year in an effort to assist in the increasingly frantic conservation negotiations around the parched and overtaxed waterway that some 40 million people in the Southwest rely upon.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, sees the informal, bipartisan caucus as a way to mediate interstate disagreements over how the river should be managed — and who should have to use less of its water — in the hope of preventing federal intervention. While states’ governors may not meet on a regular basis, senators from across the river basin are frequently together in Washington, D.C.

“The idea here is that we’re looking at how to use more carrot and less stick,” he said. “The key here is the federal government is not the best one to force a deal. The best solution is going to be a solution that all seven states sign off on.”

The group of senators has been meeting every few weeks to discuss Colorado River Basin issues. The gatherings have become more frequent amid Biden administration deadlines for basin states to come to a water conservation agreement that prevents Lake Mead and Lake Powell levels from dropping too low.

The reservoirs are already at historically low levels, yet the negotiation deadlines have come and passed without a deal.

Read the full story on

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.