Imagine a water regulation in the west that encourages those with the largest water rights to waste such a precious resource. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. The “Use It Or Lose It” rule was created when Colorado became a state, and it forces those with water rights to use all the water they are allotted whether they need to or not. If they don’t use their full allotment, they will see it reduced in coming years. As Colorado farmers can never be certain that enough rain will fall to make up the difference if their allowed amounts are cut, they are forced to use their full allotment every year, even if that means just opening the faucet “all the way and take as much as you can – whether you need it or not.”

According to Scientific American, “Use It Or Lose It” rules are common in the states that depend on the Colorado River basin for water. When these rules were created over 100 years ago, they sort of made sense. There was a doctrine that created the foundation of water law, “first in time is the first in right.” This meant that the first entities to receive water rights had “primary” rights and could use as much as they desired. Those who followed were given “secondary” rights, which meant that during times of drought, they sometimes got no water at all. As agriculture uses the vast majority of water coming from the Colorado River, water used by one farmer means the next farmer’s land is forced to stay dry.

Over 100 years later, these rules create environmentally damaging waste. In order to preserve their allotted water for dry years, entities with primary rights must use all their water, or their allotted amount will be reduced. That means that during a wetter year, they must waste the water, rather than letting it continue to flow to people further downstream, or letting it flow much further, thereby benefitting ecology.

If farmers had access to regular, plentiful amounts of water, the Colorado River could, in large part, continue its majestic journey, and they would not be forced to waste water to make sure they are allotted enough in the future. That’s where IX Water comes in. IX Water cost-efficiently treats water from oil & gas operations, mining, manufacturing, and other industrial activities so well that it can be safely used by farmers and ranchers, eliminating the need to draw on the Colorado River. Join our mission: