Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2022

Publication Title

Vermont Journal of Environmental Law

First Page


Last Page







A vast region of the western United States is in the grips of the first climate change-induced megadrought observed in the past 1,200 years.

This paper explores how climate change and the current groundwater legal regimes interact in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The Valley was chosen as a case study because it is an example of a community that introduced voluntary measures to address the overuse of groundwater. This paper examines how those measures might have been sufficient if not for the additional challenge of climate change.

This paper will first explain the history of water management in the Valley. This paper will then provide a brief overview of groundwater hydrology and groundwater law in Colorado. Next, it will explain how voluntary water management developed in the Valley. Then, the paper will analyze why the voluntary water management system is not adequate in light of climate change and argue that the time for binding enforcement measures is now. The paper concludes that, without institutional accountability, groundwater law and management practices will continue to struggle with climate change.



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