Kansas v. Colorado, 514 U.S. 673 (1995)

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on exceptions to report of special master

No. 105, Orig. Argued March 21, 1995—Decided May 15, 1995

Kansas and Colorado negotiated the Arkansas River Compact to settle disputes and remove causes of future controversies over the river's waters and to equitably divide and apportion those waters and the benefits arising from the United States' construction, operation, and maintenance of John Martin Reservoir. Under Article IV-D, the Compact is not intended to impede or prevent future beneficial development— including construction of dams and reservoirs and the prolonged or improved functioning of existing works—provided that such development does not "materially deplet[e]" stateline flows "in usable quantity or availability for use." In this action, the Special Master recommended that the Court, among other things, find that post-Compact well pumping in Colorado has resulted in a violation of Article IV-D of the Compact; find that Kansas has failed to prove that the operation of Colorado's Winter Water Storage Program (WWSP) violates the Compact; and dismiss Kansas' claim that Colorado's failure to abide by the Trinidad Reservoir Operating Principles (Operating Principles) violates the Compact. Both Kansas and Colorado have filed exceptions.

Held: The exceptions are overruled. Pp. 681-694. (a) Article IV-D permits development of projects so long as their operation does not result in a material depletion of usable flow to Kansas users. Kansas' exception to the dismissal of its Trinidad Reservoir claim fails because Kansas has not established that Colorado's failure to obey the Operating Principles resulted in such a violation. Pp. 681-683. (b) Because Kansas failed to meet its burden of proving its WWSP claim despite being given every reasonable opportunity to do so by the Special Master, there is no support for its exception to the Special Master's conclusion on that claim. P. 684. (c) In selecting what method should be used to determine depletions of "usable" flow, the Special Master properly rejected the Spronk method—which Kansas' exception proposes is correct—as less compatible with Kansas' hydrological model than the method ultimately adopted by the Special Master. Pp. 684-687. (d) In ruling on Colorado's exception to the Special Master's conclusion that laches does not bar Kansas' well-pumping claim, it is not necessary to decide whether the laches doctrine applies to a case involving


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