The Los Angeles Power and Water Department’s (“PWD”) recent release of 96 million, black “conservation balls” into the Los Angeles Reservoir attracted global media attention. The conservation balls are four inches in diameter, hollow, made of polyethylene, and coated in a carbon substance. For the most recent project, Los Angeles paid $0.36 per ball. The balls are halfway filled with water, which allows them to float on the reservoir’s surface and form into a reservoir cover. Conservation balls are not a new or novel idea. Conservation balls have been available for at least twenty years.

The balls serve two, specific purposes for Los Angeles. First, the conservation balls increase water quality. Los Angeles has been plagued with poor reservoir water quality for decades. The balls prevent the formation of harmful microorganisms, algae, and carcinogens by blocking ultraviolet ray penetration. Second, the conservation balls prevent evaporation.


Cities, like Los Angeles, are implementing projects to cover reservoirs as means to promote public health and safe drinking water. Along with municipally imposed regulations, national regulations have also brought increased pressure to cover reservoirs. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule mandated either the covering of all new reservoirs that service at least 10,000 people and (2) existing reservoirs, or that the reservoirs must adhere to stricter contaminant regulations. Previous outbreaks of typhoid and cholera throughout history show that protecting reservoir water is a social imperative. Recently recognized threats to water quality, such as Cryptosporidium, have reinvigorated the push for safer drinking water. More commonly, reservoir water quality suffers from contamination of animal feces, animal carcasses, invasive species, rogue citizens defiling the water, and everyday trash buildup. Conservation balls have been utilized to protect water quality and keep wildlife off the surface water. San Francisco International Airport, London Heathrow International Airport, and the United States Air Force have all used conservation balls to deter birds from surrounding waterways.

Water quality concerns have beset Los Angeles for decades. A 2009 report, co-authored by Environmental Working Group senior scientist Olga Naidenko, ranked Los Angeles as having the 83rd best water quality amongst large, American cities. Recent news reports showed black and yellow tinted water spouting from Los Angeles area taps. The Natural Resources Defense Council stated that Los Angeles area water is “threatened by runoff and industrial or sewage contamination.”

Los Angeles historically has been slow to make improvements to its reservoirs. The state of California first recommended to Los Angeles to cover its reservoirs in 1974. In 1988, Los Angeles formed proposals to cover some of its reservoirs, including the Elysian Reservoir. The proposed covers were made of aluminum or rubber. Following the state’s push to cover the reservoirs, few Los Angeles reservoirs were ever covered. This past inattention to water quality issues may have contributed to the issues facing Los Angeles area reservoirs today.

By 1991, PWD described the Stone Canyon Open Reservoirs and Silver Lake Reservoir Complex as having deteriorating water quality, high coliform bacteria levels, and high algae counts. In 2008, the Elysian Reservoir, a reservoir that Los Angeles failed to cover in 1988, after displayed bromate contaminants and was subsequently drained. Bromate is a suspected carcinogen, and the EPA places strict limits on its presence in drinking water. Following the 2008 draining of Elysian Reservoir, PWD used conservation balls for the first time when it dumped 400,000 balls into the Ivanhoe Reservoir. The conservation balls’ primary purpose, at the time, was to increase water quality by shielding the water from sunlight, hindering the growth of algae.

Conservation balls are potentially an appropriate remedy to the unique difficulties facing Los Angeles’ water quality issues. The conservation balls protect against the formation of harmful carcinogens, microorganisms, and algae, along with hindering the presence of animals and surface debris. The pollution generated by a city the size of Los Angeles, coupled with the push back against reservoir covers and other quality control methods have had negative, long-term effects on the cities’ water quality. Despite these hurdles, Los Angeles met the EPA’s 2013 drinking water standards. However in the future, EPA standards will only continue to tighten and Los Angeles will continue to face water quality challenge. The conservation balls have the potential to benefit Los Angeles water quality in a cost effective and minimally invasive fashion. If this most recent drop of conservation balls proves successful, conversation balls may play a larger role in securing the future of Los Angeles water quality.


Although Los Angeles initially used conservation balls to protect water quality, the PWD has now embraced the balls as an evaporation suppressant. Large surface areas make reservoirs a liability in water storage, vulnerable to massive amounts of evaporation. The two most common ways to combat surface evaporation are with floating or suspended covers. Both provide similar evaporation relief and are effective in different ways. Floating covers were historically most effective at covering small areas, where the surface is easy to cover fully. Floating covers are also cheaper. Suspended covers can be prohibitively expensive, especially when needed to cover large areas.

The United States Department of Energy encourages the use of a floating cover on family swimming pools to reduce evaporation. To cover the Los Angeles Reservoir with a floating cover presents a much greater challenge than covering a swimming pool. Reservoirs the size of the Los Angeles Reservoir require cost-effective floating covers. To be cost-effective, a cover must need minimal maintenance, can be easily removed, and conform to large water surfaces without losing its shape.

Scientists have long sought a way to place an artificial protective layer over water surfaces in order to reduce evaporation. In 1917, Irving Langmuir studied how oil films on top of a liquid surface can protect against evaporation. Academics wrote extensively about these oil films, monolayers throughout the 1960s. In 2014, Wichita Falls, Texas tested a monolayer product on Lake Arrowhead. The 2.6 month test prevented 3,400,00m³ of water from evaporating, saving the city $1,700,000. However, the product required frequent application, suffered damage in the wind, and did not provide uniform coverage.

While some researchers focus on monolayers, others have researched plastic meshes, rubber mats, and interlocking hexagonal structures. Conservation balls have emerged as an alternative to monolayers and other forms of floating covers. While monolayers may be more aesthetically pleasing, conservation balls require less maintenance, are more effective against ultraviolet rays, and do not stick to the banks of open water storage areas. Conservation balls are unique in their practicality for large areas. Before, covering large reservoirs was a complex, engineering project. Now, the self-positioning balls are simply dumped into a reservoir. The balls cling to the surface, do not blow away, and do not require complex engineering, which makes them a cost effective measure. Conservation balls also protect water quality in ways that monolayers cannot. Conservation balls block out ultraviolet rays that can have damaging effects on water quality.

Los Angeles area reservoirs suffer more use, higher temperatures, and are much larger than many other reservoirs. Traditional methods of reducing evaporation, such as solid mats or earthen covers are not feasible for Los Angeles reservoirs for a variety of reasons, from being cost prohibitive to being engineering impossibility. Large floating mats often fold over themselves, a large fold in a Los Angeles Reservoir cover would be problematic to fix. Conservation balls solve this problem by dispersing themselves around the reservoir. Furthermore, conservation balls are made of polyethylene. Polyethylene is commonly used to prevent evaporation. Polyethylene shade covers can reduce evaporation loss up to 85%, and prevent algal growth. Polyethylene shade covers are suspended covers, and do not float like the conservation balls.

Polyethylene is widely considered the best material to suppress evaporation. A number of conservation ball manufacturers claim that their product prevents evaporation loss by 90%. Despite the lack of academic studies focusing on the evaporation reduction from polyethylene formed into a ball, surfaces covered with polyethylene in a variety of forms substantially lowers evaporation rates compared with uncovered surfaces. This holds true even for only partially covered surfaces. While conservation balls limit evaporation, one noted flaw of the conservation ball is how it’s round shape. Surface covers that leave one large area exposed are more successful at suppressing evaporation than covers with many small holes. The balls naturally create spaces in between each other due to the spherical shape; this in turn causes higher levels of evaporation than a solid cover that does not cover an entire surface.

Los Angeles is the first major city to use this product. How the city fares with this investment will provide significant evaporation reduction information to other cities with similar problems.


Los Angeles’ use of conservation balls is an example of a city using an innovative, relatively unknown, and relatively inexpensive product as a solution to an otherwise cripplingly expensive infrastructure project. Like any new public works project there has been scrutiny over the project and questions regarding why municipalities were not using this product sooner. To some naysayers this solution is another waste of taxpayer dollars, while others within the media and California view this project as having great potential.

However, this project by the PWD shows how small investments can have potentially long-term payoffs that prevent later environmental and political fallout. Covering a reservoir in conservation balls is a lot cheaper, in the short and long-term, than constructing a new, underground reservoir. Mayor Eric Garcetti hailed the conservation balls as saving both taxpayers and drinking water. The day may come when Los Angeles and California, as a whole, have to create solutions to challenges regarding their water systems that require much more complex answers than conservation balls. To know what role the conservation balls may play in solving future challenges, the true savings and benefits of this project must be known, not just the projected benefits. Los Angeles estimates that the balls will save 300 million gallons of water a year. Time will tell how accurate those estimates are. If this project is successful then it potentially could model for other cities across the world.

Department of Water and Power workers release the final 20,000 of 96 million black shade balls during a news conference at the Los Angeles Reservoir on Aug. 10, 2015. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews.


Ca. Exec. Order No. B-29-15 (Jan. 17, 2015) available at

Mayor Garcetti Announces Completion of Innovative ‘Shade Ball’ Cover Project at Los Angeles Reservoir, Mayor, City of Los Angeles (Aug. 10, 2015),

EPA Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, 40 C.F.R. § 141.700 (2006).

U.S. EPA, Uncovered Finished Water Reservoirs Guidance Manual (1999) available at

David Verlee & David Zetland, Extending water supply by reducing reservoir evaporation: a case study from Wichita Falls, Texas, in Proceedings of Mine Water Solutions in Extreme Environments (2015) available at

S. Assouline Et Al., Evaporation Suppression From Water Reservoirs: Efficiency Considerations of Partial Covers, 47 Nat. Resources Res. (2011).

Brian Clark Howard, Why Did L.A. Drop 96 Million ‘Shade Balls’ Into Its Water?, Nat’l Geographic (Aug. 18, 2015),

Robert Ferris, ‘Shade balls’ protect LA water supply during drought, CNBC (Aug. 13, 2015, 11:56 AM),

Danny Clemens, Millions of ‘Shade Balls’ to Prevent Evaporation in California Reservoirs, Discovery (Aug. 12, 2015),

Andrew Theen, Portland’s new Kelly Butte Reservoir is open, funneling water to city taps, Oregonlive (Apr. 28, 2015, 4:44 PM),

Sarah Zielinski, The Colorado River Runs Dry, Smithsonian Mag. (Oct. 2010),

Xi Yao Et Al., Evaporation Reduction by Suspended and Floating Covers: Overview, Modelling and Efficiency, 28 Urban Water Security Research Alliance Technical Report (Aug. 2010).

Veronique du Turenne, Those reservoir balls – are they safe?, L.A. Times (June 10, 2008, 4:54 PM),

Mary Pflum, Bird-plane collisions on the rise, CNN (Jan. 1, 2001),

Douglas Smith, Critics of Cover for Elysian Reservoir Hit the Roof, L.A. Times (Dec. 8, 1988)

Judy Pasternak, Cover the Reservoirs? Many Can’t See It, L.A. Times (Oct. 5, 1988)

Alan Citron, Contaminants Pose New Problems for Playa Vista Complex, L.A. Times (Nov. 8, 1987),

National Forest Service’s Proposed Directive

Approximately 121 ski areas, across thirteen states, operate on National Forest Service (“Forest Service”) lands. The Forest Service authorizes these ski areas’ operations by issuing long-term special use permits under federal law. Special use permits do not confer water rights on the holder, but most water rights for snowmaking is necessary for the operation of most ski areas. Ski areas acquire water rights under state law necessary for snowmaking and other general uses. Since 2004, the Forest Service has made a series of revisions to the water rights clauses in ski area permits that limit permit holders’ use and ownership of the water rights.


The National Forest Service posted notice of its proposed internal directives amendment on June 23, 2014. The two new clauses constitute the Forest Service fulfilling its mandate to provide recreational use of Forest Service lands. There are six assertions in the second clause of the proposal that directly apply to prior appropriation states, including Colorado.

The Forest Service has the authority under the Organic Administration Act to regulate and condition the use and occupancy of Forest Service lands. More specifically, the Multiple Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 authorizes the Forest Service to develop and administer the surface resources of national forests to provide for outdoor recreation, among other uses.

The Forest Service’s 2014 proposed directive contains the provisions of the 2012 Directive, but the Forest Service provided the public an opportunity to participate by publishing the proposal. The 2012 Directive clarified and modified the 2011 Directive, but retained many of the same provisions. First, the 2012 Directive clarified that availability of the water for operation of ski areas would not be adversely affected under the provisions, unless necessary for the Forest Service to fulfill legal requirements. Essentially, the Forest Service is suggesting that the provisions will not interfere with the water availability for ski areas unless it must take action to pursuant to its obligation to maintain federally owned Forest Service ski area water rights. As to ownership, the 2012 Directive next clarified the “joint in tenancy with survivorship” requirement and stated that ski areas could transfer or sever their ownership interests with consent of the Forest Service. Third, the 2012 Directive removed the restrictions on the holder’s ability to sever water rights for water diverted from non-NFS lands for use on NFS lands in the same permit area.

The new proposed directive arose in response to the District Court of Colorado’s 2012 ruling in National Ski Areas v. United States Forest Service. The court in that case vacated the 2012 Directive because the agency failed to comply with procedural requirements in promulgating the rule. In that case, The National Ski Areas Association (“NSAA”) brought suit against National Forest Service seeking an injunction to set aside the 2011 and 2012 Directives. NSAA alleged that the Forest Service should have allowed a notice and comment period. The court ultimately agreed and held that the Agency additionally needed to conduct a Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis of the impact of the directives on small business entities that hold ski area permits. However, the court declined to rule on the substantive aspects of the directives.

The Forest Service subsequently published the 2014 directive for notice and comment in compliance with the APA. This clause first asserts that it supersedes existing national and regional ski area rights clauses in the current Directive. Second, it restricts water rights and water developments under a ski area permit to those that are necessary for and that primarily support the operation of the ski area. Third, it prohibits issuance of new or modified permits to holders not in compliance with all requirements of the directives. Fourth, it does not require the transfer of water rights to the United States under the terms of prior permits. Fifth, it states that the holder of a permit must grant a limited power of attorney to the Agency Officer to execute documents to effectuate any transfers of rights to subsequent permit holders. Sixth, it requires permit holders to waive any right to compensation against the United States for the transfer of water rights as a result of the provisions. The Forest Service states that these revisions are necessary for water availability for ski resorts, as well as for greater accountability and consistency in authorization of water uses and ownership of water rights.

Cory Gardner’s Amendment Aims to Protect State Water Rights

More recently, the Forest Service proposed an amendment to its internal directives that adds two clauses to the Special Uses Handbook, FSH 2709.II, chapter 50, which addresses permit holders of ski area water rights.

Senator Cory Gardner mentioned this recent Forest Service rule in his proposal on the Senate floor of his amendment to the Senate budget. Gardner’s amendment aims to protect the supremacy of state water law, and one provision of the Forest Service proposal provides that the provision would supersede state water law.

Gardner’s amendment itself proposes to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to “protecting communities, businesses, recreationists, farmers, ranchers, and other groups that rely on privately held water rights and permits from Federal takings.” On Thursday, March 26, Gardner’s amendment to protect private water rights from federal overreach passed by a vote of 59-41.

“Here is a land where life is written in water” began Cory Gardner’s speech on the Senate floor. The quote, he explained, is written on a mural in the Colorado State Capital Rotunda. Gardner moved to the basic justification for his amendment: “to make sure that we are protecting that life blood of Colorado, our water.” Gardner proposes protection against intrusions by the federal government attempting to challenge the supremacy of state water law. Gardner’s proposed amendment challenges federal agency rights by asserting state supremacy to legislate and control water rights. Among others, Gardner mentions the “new Forest Service Ski Area Rule” as an example of an agency seeking to impose a limitation on water rights at the federal level without going through the same water law channels that govern the rightful owners of Colorado water rights and permits.

Effect of the Amendment

Gardner’s recent amendment illustrates the ever-present tension between private ski area water rights holders and federal agencies. The potential magnitude of the effect of Gardner’s amendment is great, particularly because the current prior appropriation doctrine’s relationship with ski area water rights is at stake. However, the Forest Service has demonstrated the need for federal regulation in order to ensure that ski areas have the necessary water for providing future recreational use to the American public.


The title image features the iconic Beaver Creek ski resort in Colorado. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license and the owner does not endorse this blog.


Senator Cory Gardner, Gardner Amendment Protects Water Rights, YouTube (Mar. 25, 2015),


Notice of Proposed Directive; Request for Public Comment, 79 Fed. Reg. 35513 (June 23, 2014).

161 Cong. Rec. S1807 (Mar. 24, 2015),

Nat’l Ski Areas v. U.S. Forest Serv., 910 F.2d 1269 (Colo. 2012).



One of the largest megaprojects in the world has started construction—the Nicaragua Canal. When finished, the canal will be over three times the length of the Panama Canal and will accommodate some of the world’s largest ships. The project did not arise out of thin air. The United States had interest in building a canal in Nicaragua over a century ago.

In the beginning of the 1900s, the United States was searching for a place to build a canal that would connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  Nicaragua and Panama both wanted the bid.  In 1902, the U.S. Senate voted and, by a mere eight votes, awarded the canal to Panama.  A few years after the loss of the bid, Nicaraguan President, General Emiliano Chamorro, gave the U.S. the perpetual and exclusive right to build a canal in Nicaragua in exchange for three million dollars.  This agreement is known as the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty (“Treaty”). The U.S. and Nicaragua entered into the Treaty on August 5, 1914. The Treaty was only renewable every 99 years.  Because Nicaragua gave the U.S. the exclusive rights to build a canal in Nicaragua, Nicaragua itself was legally unable to build a canal. This inability made it difficult for Nicaragua to compete with Panama economically, and, as a result, the country has suffered in the world marketplace for decades.

In 1970, the U.S. and Nicaragua bilaterally abolished the Treaty. Now, the Nicaraguan government has granted a Chinese company, Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment (“HKND”), the right to build a canal.  December 10, 2013, the Nicaraguan Assembly passed the canal concession. The Nicaraguan government did not inform the public of the bill until the bill had already been ratified. The bill gives HKND the power to build two ports, a railroad, an oil pipeline, and roads.  The bill also gives HKND the power to expropriate land along the canal route­—effectively giving HKND the right to displace an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Nicaraguan landowners.  No countries or businesses placed a bid to build the canal in Nicaragua. HKND won the canal project without bidding and has a 50 year renewable contract with Nicaragua to build, operate, and profit from it.

HKND, headed by investor Wang Jing, expects the project to take five years to build and cost 50 billion dollars.  The canal will span about 173 miles, while the Panama Canal is only 48 miles, to connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  The canal’s width will vary between 755 feet and 1,706 feet.  It will be around 90 feet deep.  Nicaragua and HKND state that the size of the canal will accommodate some of the world’s largest ships, something the Panama Canal cannot do.

The megaproject has drawn public interest from around the world.  The project clearly implicates many issues whose resolve will unfold within the coming months and years.  The major issues concern the rights of Nicaraguan landowners and the anticipated environmental impacts of the canal.

The Rights of Nicaraguan Landowners

A central issue and subject of debate, especially in Nicaragua, is the displacement of Nicaraguan landowners along the canal.  Nicaragua is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.  The current Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega, has sold the majority of the country on the idea of the canal by emphasizing the tremendous economic impact the canal will have on the county.  Ortega states that the canal will create 50,000 jobs for Nicaraguans, bring in benefit taxes from the Chinese government, and produce revenue from its operation.

However, many people are concerned that Ortega’s promises are not what they seem. They are apprehensive because HKND will initially own the entire canal; Nicaragua will only gain one-per-cent ownership of the canal each year.

An even greater area of concern surrounds the fact that the Nicaraguan government has given up part of its sovereignty to HKND and Wang.  The agreement between the country and HKND allows the company tremendous power in the land area along the canal—allowing it to not only build the canal, but displace landowners currently living near the canal line.

HKND does not deny that it will have to displace 20,000 to 30,000 landowners, but agrees to pay them fair market value for their land.  Large landowners, will likely be okay because they will receive enough money to move somewhere else.  Small farmers and landowners, called campesinos, avidly protest the canal.  The small bits of land they own are all they have, and displacement would be detrimental.  Many campesinos are indigenous to the land and have had the small bits of land on which they live for generations. They hoped to give their land to their children one day.  The land is worth little on the market, but the families’ emotional attachments to their lands are priceless.  Giving up their land for the canal or the hotels and roads that will surround it seems like a step in the wrong direction.  They view the canal not as an opportunity to increase the Nicaraguan economy, but as a forfeiture of the country’s independence to China. Campesinos fear that displacement will not only cause the loss of their livelihood, but also will likely force their families to be homeless.

Environmental Concerns

Another issue for the canal concerns the lack of research on the canal’s environmental impacts. While scientist around the world have expressed the need for an environmental impact study, HKND has only released one. On December 16, 2014, HKND released the study, but the study was not research on the canal project itself, only on the preliminary construction. Even more worrisome, HKND paid for the study itself and hired the firm that executed it.

The study stated that there would likely be many problems resulting from the preliminary construction, some that cannot be remedied. For example, there is potential for fuel spills. Such fuel spills may harm the fresh fish, agricultural activity, and soil. Additionally, the canal is to run through Lake Nicaragua. Lake Nicaragua is Central America’s largest fresh water lake. Many people rely on it as a source of potable and irrigation water. The canal may damage this precious resource by seeping salt water into the lake.

One scientific association, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (“ATBC”), released a statement regarding the building on the canal. ATBC reported that the canal would affect around 1,545 square miles of “forest, coast, and wetlands.” Additionally, ATBC stated that the canal would affect “the habitat of at least 22 species that are vulnerable and in danger of extinction.”

Many other international scientific organizations have issued concerns regarding the canal’s environmental impact. Most of the organizations ask that the construction halt until adequate and independent research addressing the areas of concern is performed. However, the Nicaraguan government seems unconcerned about the consequences the canal may have on its people, land, and animals.


Ortega promises his people that the canal will greatly strengthen the Nicaraguan economy and give many of its citizens jobs. For this reason, most Nicaraguans support the building of the canal. Most people believe that it will transform Nicaragua from one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere into a resort-style country like Panama. However, whether these dreams of wealth will come to fruition is far from certain.

What is certain is that people will lose their homes and that the government is not taking adequate measures to protect the environment. International human rights and environmental organizations have cried out to the Nicaraguan government to slow down and take more precautions. As construction progresses, the international world will be watching how these issues are addressed and what consequences unfold.


The title image features the United States’ proposed canal through Nicaragua in 1870, which was never realized. This image is part of the public domain.



Jon Lee Anderson, Breaking Ground on the Nicaragua Canal, The New Yorker, January 2, 2015, available at

Jon Lee Anderson, The Comandante’s Canal, The New Yorker, March 10, 2014, available at

Reese Erlich, The Nicargua Canal, NPR: Latino USA, March 13, 2015, available at

Pablo Fonseca, Nicaragua Constructs Enormous Canal, Blind to its Environmental Cost, Scientific American, February 11, 2015, available at

Silvana Ordoñez, Who’s behind the ‘Nicaragua Grand Canal’ – and Why?, CNBC: Transportation, February 25, 2015, available at


Water loss, or non-revenue water (“NRW”), is water produced for consumption, but never reaches the consumer. NRW is a problem that affects both developing and developed countries alike. The total amount of NRW worldwide is estimated at 48.6 billion cubic meters. Every day, 45 million cubic meters of drinking water, which could meet the needs of almost 200 million people in the developing world, are lost to the world’s water systems. In some low-income countries, this loss represents 50-60% of water supplied, with a global average estimated at 35%. Reducing NRW results in a greater amount of water available for consumption and postpones the need for investing in new sources, while simultaneously lowering operating costs.


Most NRW is due to leaky pipes and a general lack of efficient technology, methodology, and training. Addressing the issue means looking at infrastructure and utilities. Water utilities in many parts of the world characterize water loss as a secondary priority, because policy makers either have not yet realized the true economic and social impact of water loss, or have failed to address it because of the technical and politically unattractive nature of the issue.   Policy-makers have historically leaned toward expansion over revision. But in many areas of the world, if leakage is cut, there will be no need to expand to produce more water. Unfortunately, many leaders refuse to admit the level of loss they have. Raising awareness of the problem at local government level in addition to providing basic information on water loss management for key decision makers and CEOs, is a precondition for implementing change in the water sector in developing counties in particular.


There is not a clear “one-size fits all” solution to water leakage, but leaders and policy-makers should follow the successful measures taken by multiple countries around the world, if they hope to remedy the problem.

Government-imposed targets on utilities

The United Kingdom, among others, has put water-loss reduction targets in place, which water companies are required to meet. Setting targets requires an examination of the amount of water loss as it relates to various economic factors. Creating an initial leakage reduction target is key to achieving an economic balance between the costs of leakage control and the benefits that accrue. Currently, no state in the United States mandates targets for water loss reduction.

Additionally, some countries, and several U.S. states have begun requiring utilities to conduct water audits. A water audit traces the flow of water from the site of water withdraw or treatment, through the water distribution system, and into customer properties. The audit usually exists in the form of an accounting spreadsheet that details how much water is being lost and where.

With properly conducted water audits and loss reduction targets, officials would be in a position to determine if shortfalls could be better met by reducing leakage than by increasing production. Right now, many have no way to know.

Emerging Solutions

In recent years, several companies specializing in reducing water loss have emerged, representing an important step forward. Miya is an example of one such company. Miya, founded by an American-Israeli businesswoman, has taken a holistic approach to water loss. Contrary to common belief, water leakage cannot be solved by simply replacing the worst pipes. A long-term fix requires an understanding of the entire system and managing pressure; with a pressurized system, work done in one section of pipelines affects all of the other areas in the system.

Before 2012, the Bahamas Water and Sewerage Corporation (“W.S.C.”) was supplying 12 imperial gallons of water to the system each day- and each day it was losing almost 7 million gallons. The W.S.C. attempted to solve the leaks over the years by replacing big pipes, but their attempts only provided a quick fix, not a permanent solution. In 2012, Miya won an $83 million ten-year contract to advance a more sustainable solution and provide a cost effective fix to a water system in shambles.

Miya’s holistic approach consists of a four step program: 1) In-depth analysis of the city’s water system; 2) Developing a financial model; 3) Implementation of the plan; and 4) Maintenance. In order to implement the plan, Miya hires and trains locals, creating jobs and leaving behind a trained work force that can continue to work on the project.

Prior to starting the project, the Bahamas was rationing their water and running the desalination facilities at full capacity. Nine months after starting the project, rations were no longer necessary, and the government subsequently mandated that the desalination plant cut back their production rate. Over ten years, the project is estimated to pay for itself, given the massive amounts of water and energy that will be saved after its implementation, not to mention the local jobs created.

Slowly but surely, efforts to reduce water leakage are spreading around the world. There have been substantial water recovery gains in Cambodia, Brazil, South Africa, and Malaysia, to name a few. But despite the fact that water loss recovery is good for business, good for customers, and good for the environment, leaders and politicians worldwide still prefer to expand production where there are shortfalls, despite the fact that the water from expanded production must necessarily flow through old, leaky pipes.


The title image features a water pipeline that runs along a footpath in the UK. According to the photographer and image owner, every joint in the pipeline was leaking. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license to Katy Walters who does not endorse this blog. 


Sarah LaBrecque, Water Loss: Seven Things You Need to Know About an Invisible Global Problem, The Guardian (March 2, 2015),

David Bornstein, The Art of Water Recovery, The New York Times (July 10, 2014),

Gunter Klein et al., Capacity Development for Drinking Water Loss Reduction: Challenges and Experiences, (Hani Sewilam 2011) available at

Malcom Farley et al., The Manager’s Non-Revenue Water Handbook: A Guide to Understanding Water Losses (Niels can Dijk et al. eds., 2008), available at

Civil unrest and demonstrations have sprung up across Ireland this year as a result of the government’s newly imposed “water charge” on household water use.

New “Water Charge” Imposed As Part of Ireland’s Ongoing Austerity Measures.

In October of last year, the Irish government announced plans to levy a new fee for household water use. The government commissioned “Irish Water,” a state owned utility service, to implement the new usage-based water fees. The fee is among a number of recent austerity measures. Other examples include implementing new taxes, increasing existing taxes, downsizing the government workforce, and withdrawing government employment benefits. These measures were taken in an effort to repay the debt Ireland assumed during the 2010 International Financial Bailout. The austerity measures have had a successful impact on the economic recovery in Ireland, whose national economy is now the fastest growing in Europe. The Irish people have largely accepted the financial burden of the recovery effort, but it seems that the new water fee has put them at wits-end.

Proponents Tout the New Measure as Necessary to Fund Critical Improvements

The current coalition government, led by the Fine Gael and Labour parties, initiated the measures. They argue that the new charge is an essential means of funding the national effort to rebuild infrastructure for delivering drinking water. The existing infrastructure has long been in disrepair, and currently leaks nearly half the water intended for delivery. In addition, many out-of-date water treatment facilities are unable to remove harmful bacteria from the drinking water. In several areas of the country the municipal water is undrinkable, and requires boiling prior to drinking. Many Irish citizens are infuriated with the prospect of paying an additional fee for already sub-standard water.

Public Response To The New Charge Has Been Resoundingly Negative.

Approximately one-third of the households in Ireland have simply refused to pay the charge, or participate in the program voluntarily. The government has attempted to remedy the widespread refusals to participate in the program by offering a monetary incentive equivalent to about 100 U.S. dollars for households who register on time. The due date for registration has been extended three times since initially scheduled, which serves to illustrate the lack of public acceptance as well as the level of government desperation to implement the program. On numerous occasions throughout the country, utility workers installing the program’s new water meters have been forced to flee under threats of violence from disgruntled area residents.

Recent protests throughout the country embody the public frustration with the new measure. Some events have garnered attendance of more than 100,000. Photos of protests depict the opponents wielding colorful signs with messages like “Ireland Will Topple These Traitors,” “Water = Life, Not Profit!” and “Irish Water Can Flush Off,” among others. The protests have gained a substantial social media presence as well, with an estimated 22,700 recordings of the protests appearing on YouTube alone. Among those attending the protest was Éamonn Campbell, guitarist for the Irish-Folk giant The Dubliners. He told the press: “these taxes that have been forced by the greedy… and paid for on the backs of the needy.” This sentiment is common among protestors–that lower income households are the hardest hit by the newly imposed charge. The charge amounts to the equivalent of roughly 500 U.S. dollars a year, an amount increasingly difficult for those already struggling to make ends meet under the harsh economic conditions facing much of Ireland’s population. Opponents also argue that charging additional fees for water use is effectively a double tax, because the existing income tax covers municipal water.

The Opposition Includes More Than Just Angry Protestors

A number of activist groups have organized specifically for the purpose of opposing the tax. These include groups with names like “Right2Water,” “Forgotten Farmers,” the National Reform Movement, and “People Before Profit”. Among the opposition are leftist political groups, namely the Worker’s Party and the Socialist Party.

Vocal Opposition To The New Charge Has Proven A Smart Political Move.

Another vocal opponent of the water charge is Sinn Fein – a prominent political party with origins as the political offspring of the Irish Revolutionary Army. This issue has had political impacts as well. In 2015, Sinn Fein rose to twenty percent in the polls, twice the number of votes the party received in 2012. The growing political support for parties whose platforms include opposition to the measure has not gone unnoticed by the current government. The growing political threat posed by opponents of the measure could influence the outcome of elections in Ireland next year. The threat of losing political support over the unpopular measure is an added incentive for the current government to modify or even scrap the program in order to maintain its political support amongst the people of Ireland.

While public opposition to the newly imposed water charge shows no signs of lessening, the government is left scrambling to turn public perception of the new measure.


The title image features an original well in Northern Ireland “free to every one.” This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license to  Kenneth Allen who does not endorse this blog.



Suzanne Daley, A New Irish Rebellion, This Time Against Water Fees, N.Y. Times, (Mar. 27, 2015),

Harry McGee, Water Protests First to Go Viral on Social Media, Irish Times, (Mar. 2, 2015),

Jason Douglas, Irish Protest Government Plan to Charge Households for Water, Wall St. J., (Dec. 11, 2014),

Tracy Connor, Water Unleashes a Rebellion in Relentlessly Rainy Ireland, NBC News, (Nov. 15, 2014),

Diarmaid Fleming, Anger at Irish water charges reaches boiling point, BBC News, (Oct. 1, 2014),

Unlike the fertile land of the eastern United States, the West is arid and water has consistently been a constrained resource. Faced with a need to establish water rights tailored to these circumstances, the western States established the prior appropriation doctrine, coined “first in time, first in right.” Today, it is the law of land in most of the West. Under this doctrine, ownership of water is established through a hierarchy of titles: senior appropriators and junior appropriators. While both senior and junior appropriators’ access to water is constrained by the amount of water the environment provides, senior appropriators enjoy first access to the water. Today, the state of Colorado is debating a deceptively straightforward question hundreds of years after the introduction of this doctrine: who is the senior appropriator of rainwater falling on rooftops in urban and suburban areas?

On one hand, the foundations of prior appropriation establish that all water is subject to a claim of ownership at some point. Rainwater marks water’s introduction into the land and it eventually navigates downstream into bodies of water where water rights are likely firmly established. Under this rationale, the collection of household rainwater would ultimately harm the public because, when collected, it is no longer introduced downstream into larger bodies of water. In this view, the rainwater collector unjustifiably collects rainwater to the detriment of those downstream, including municipalities, farmers, and other water users.

On the other hand, household rainwater collection supporters emphasize that the amount of water collected through this method is minimal and does not pose serious risks for downstream users—97% of rainwater never encounters streams and is instead harvested by plants or evaporated back into the cycle. Instead, where using established household water supply lines to irrigate flowerbeds and gardens leads to an “out of sight, out of mind” perspective of the amount of water used, rainwater collection presents an opportunity for increased water user awareness. In turn, this increased awareness encourages a more individualized connection to the scarce resource leading to conservation on a micro-level.

Colorado’s Historical Approach

In 2009, the Colorado legislature began to address these questions by passing two laws related to household rainwater collection. Together, the bills allow residents of the state with private wells to collect rainwater for specific uses. These uses are limited to: ordinary household purposes, fire protection, livestock and domestic animal watering, and the irrigation of not more than one acre of gardens and lawns. Today, residents of urban areas who are connected to the city water system remain precluded from collecting rainwater in any manner, including cistern or tanks, for later use.

Other Western States’ Approaches

Colorado has not been alone in its effort to answer questions related to household rainwater collection. Until 2010 in Utah, rainwater collection required an existing water right covering the land where water was collected. However, due to public demand, today only registration with the city water authority of an intention to collect rainwater is required. Similarly, in Idaho, rooftop rainwater collection is permitted so long as the water is put to beneficial use. The landowner of property where water is collected has an unqualified right to collect the water, so long as it does not cause injury to another water user.

In New Mexico and Arizona, rainwater collection is encouraged. Santa Fe, N.M., exemplified the state’s embracing rainwater collection policy by passing an ordinance requiring the collection of a minimum of 85% of rooftop rainwater for all newly constructed dwellings within the city.

Recent Developments in Colorado

Colorado remains the last state to maintain an explicit ban for those connected to a city’s water system to collect rainwater. However, prominent water-related organizations, including Denver Water, Conservation Colorado, Environmental Defense Fund, and many others, support Colorado House Bill 15-1259. The bill allows all Colorado residents living in a single-family residence or multi-family residences with four or fewer units to collect rainwater in 100-gallon barrels, with a maximum of 600 gallons of water collected per year. The collected water must be used on the property where it was collected and applied to outdoor purposes only, such as irrigation and gardening. To illuminate the amount of water involved, advocates of the measure emphasize that the goal of collected rainwater is small in scale: 100 gallons would sufficiently water a small flowerbed or garden, but would not be sufficient to water a full lawn.

The bill, having passed the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee, is currently facing heated debate in the Colorado House. Opponents argue the rainwater collection provisions amount to an effort to circumvent the existing and long-established water rights system of Colorado. Supporters, however, counter by emphasizing that the collected water ultimately ends up in the ground, available for downstream use.

Colorado Should Expand Permissible Rainwater Collection

Whether Colorado will leave its status as the last holdout and join the trend of Western states to allow, permit, or encourage rooftop rainwater collection remains to be seen. However, the existing water systems of urban areas of Colorado unfortunately allow urban citizens to maintain an inaccurate understanding of just how limited water is across the state and region. If for no reason other than increased awareness in urban communities of the limited nature of water, rooftop rainwater collection should be seriously considered. Further, because most of the water that an individual may collect through this method ultimately evaporates or is harvested by plants, allowing for a more directed use among flowerbeds and gardens does not pose unreasonable constraints on potential downstream users. Rooftop rainwater collection in Colorado presents a new opportunity for conservation that, in aggregate, may aide water rights holders by encouraging water conservation.


The title image features a rainwater collection device used by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. This image is part of the public domain.


Franklin Cub River Pumping Co. v. Le Fevre, 311 P.2d 763 (Idaho 1957).

Frequently Asked Questions, Utah Division of Water Rights, (last visited Mar. 22, 2015)

Gray water and Rainwater Harvesting for Residents, Arizona Department of Water Resources, (last visited Mar. 22, 2015).

Joey Bunch, Colorado “rain barrel bill” hits choppy water in tough House debate, The Denver Post (Mar. 20, 2015),

Kirk Johnson, It’s Now Legal to Catch a Raindrop in Colorado, The New York Times (June 28, 2009),

Leonard Rice Engineers, Inc. et al., Holistic Approach to Sustainable Water Management in Northwest Douglass County (2007),

Letter from Phillip J. Rassier, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Water Resources, State of Idaho, to Gary J. Schroeder, Idaho State Senator (Aug. 11, 2008) (on file with author), available at

Nate Downey, New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, Roof-Reliant Landscaping (2009),

Press Release, Conservation Colorado, Legislature Supports Rain Barrels for Coloradans (Mar. 16, 2015) (on file with author).

Rain Barrel Fact Sheet, Conservation Colorado, (Mar. 18, 2015),

Rainwater Collection and Graywater Reuse, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Department of Natural Resources, (last visited Mar. 22, 2015).

S.B. 080, 2009 Leg. (Colo. 2009).

Santa Fe, NM., Land Development Code art. 3, § 2.4.1 (2003).

Water Harvesting, City of Tucson, AZ., (last visited Mar. 22, 2015).

The Great Paradox

São Paulo, Brazil, a metropolis of roughly 20 million, is facing a water crisis unparalleled in modern times. Although it is almost paradoxical that the most populated city in a country holding twelve percent of the world’s fresh water could find itself in this perilous position, the extreme drought is no mirage,. Powered by climate change, pollution, incompetent infrastructure, and a lack of governmental foresight, the water shortage is disrupting many Brazilian’s day-to-day lives, as mandatory water rationing is forcing São Paulo residents to go days without water. In response, some have resorted to drilling their own wells or hoarding water in buckets to satisfy simple hygienic needs. Water-dependent industries are struggling to maintain ordinary operations as well. The New York Times recently quoted local São Paulo bar owner Maria da Fátima Ribeiro asking: “Imagine going three days without any water and trying to run a business in a basic sanitary way.” Hospitals are asking similar questions amid reports that the Cândido Fontoura children’s hospital’s water taps ran dry earlier this month.

Reservoir’s Running Dry

The area’s water supplies are running dangerously low, as the Cantateria Reservoir system (which is compromised of five reservoirs and feeds nine million people) sat at only five percent capacity as of mid February. Similarly, the Alto Teite network supplies three million people and remains below fifteen percent. Calculations of predicted rainfall and the area’s consumption demands suggest the greater São Paulo region’s water supply is four to six months away from complete depletion, before the November rains arrive. State officials are poised to enact further rationing restrictions—a structure that would allow residents water only two days a week—if this month’s rains do not refill the reservoirs. While early March rains raised the Cantateria Reservoir system’s water level to nearly fourteen percent, the stricter rationing system will likely be implemented in the near future.

 Too Little Too Late

Aside from trucking in water, there is little else Brazilian officials can do in the short term. As thirty percent of the city’s treated water is lost due to pipe leakage, it is impossible to overhaul an incompetent system without an enormous time and financial investment. While the water utility is seeking to “reduce” leaks, imposing fines for overconsumption, and offering conservation incentives, none of these plans can induce rainfall, which is the only answer to the urgent demand. Further, although plans to draw water from a nearby river basin and construct new reservoirs are underway, they will not be completed until well into next year.

Toxic Rivers

São Paulo’s lack of proper industrial waste disposal and open sewage system prevents otherwise available resources from being accessed as well. The Tiete and Pinheiros Rivers, which traverse the city, rank among the most polluted rivers in the world; rather than water, thick ooze flows in certain sections of the rivers. While utilizing river water appears an obvious solution to augment the depleting reservoirs, treating water that is ashen gray in appearance and emits a strong odor of rotten eggs is not an option.

Flying Rivers Grounded

Climate change, fueled by deforestation, is another culprit in the crisis. Recent scientific studies indicate that the deforestation of the Amazon River basin, hundreds of miles away, is reducing South America’s available precipitation. A large tree in the Amazon rainforest can evaporate 300 liters of water a day, while, as a whole, the Amazon basin evaporates 20 billion tons of water vapor daily (more water than the Amazon River discharges into the Atlantic Ocean). Trees release this vapor into the atmosphere, creating a thick level of migratory mist known as a “flying river.” Winds usually propel the flying river west until the imposing Andes Mountains re-direct the moisture south, where it eventually winds up as rain in southern Brazil. However, as the Amazon’s deforestation increased over ten percent from last year, the flying river failed to appear this year. Many worry the flying river will never return.

Hitting Close to Home

The situation in São Paulo, and Brazil as a whole, makes the arid American West seem like an oasis. However, the dichotomy of the wet places grappling with fresh water shortages is not unique to Brazil, it is happening in America as well. When water is treated as a scarce resource, law and policy reflect its societal value. Colorado’s original prior appropriation system and recent modifications to create flexible water markets echo this. Foresight for water shortages was built into our system, but other areas are not afforded the present “luxury” we were originally burdened with.

Take Florida for example, as the fifth wettest state in the country creating a cautious water regime was not a concern,. Today, the lack of management and infrastructure forces Floridians to rely on groundwater for ninety percent of consumption. This is troubling because population and consumption projections indicate that by 2035 Florida will need to pump 250 million more gallons of water than the Florida Aquifer even holds.

Florida must learn from Brazil’s lack of foresight before it is too late. What was once taken for granted now needs to be seriously considered. Hopefully, it takes less than severe water rationing to motivate Florida, and states across the country, to engage in responsible and forward-thinking water management.


The title image features São Paolo and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license to Andre Deak. Deak does not endorse this blog.


Jan Rocha, Drought Bites as Amazon’s “Flying Rivers” Drying Up, Climate News Network, September 14, 2014, available at

Erin Sullivan, Will Florida’s Impending Water Crisis be Addressed by State Legislature? As the 2014 Session Draws to a Close, it Looks Less and Less Likely, Orlando Weekly, April 15, 2014, available at


Maruissa Whatley & Rebeca Lerer, Brazil Drought: Water Rationing Alone won’t Save Sao Paulo, The Guardian, February 11, 2015, available at


Simon Romero, Taps Start to Run Dry in Brazil’s Largest City, New York Times, February 16, 2015, available at .

Simon Romero, A Willing Explorer of Sao Paulo’s Polluted Rivers, New York Times, December 14, 2012, available at

New Zealand Herald, Heavy Rains don’t End Threat of Water Rationing in Brazil, March 12, 2015, available at

Panel 3

Federico Cheever is Professor of Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law specializing in environmental law, property law, wildlife law, and public land law. Professor Cheever came to Denver as an Associate Attorney for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (1987-1989). He briefly engaged in research with the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado School of Law. Between 1990 and 1993, he was an associate at the law firm Faegre & Benson. Professor Cheever has represented environmental groups in cases under the Endangered Species Act, the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wilderness Act and a number of other environmental laws. Professor Cheever clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Los Angeles (1986-1987). Professor Cheever earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University, and he earned his JD from UCLA in 1986.

David Robbins is president and co-founder of Hill & Robbins, P.C., where his practice focuses on water and natural resources law, water quality, and environmental law.  Mr. Robbins served in the U.S. Army (Captain, 1969-1972) and with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region VIII (1973-1974).  He then joined the Colorado Attorney General’s Office as a First Assistant Attorney General and head of the Natural Resources Section (1975-77), and was later appointed the Deputy Attorney General (1977-1978).  Mr. Robbins represented the State of Colorado in a variety of interstate water matters, and served as counsel to the state engineer in adjudication proceedings and trials concerning basin-wide rules and regulations. In 2012, Mr. Robbins was named the Colorado Water Leader of the Year. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Sandra B. Zellmer is a professor of law at the University of Nebraska College of Law where she teaches and writes about natural resources, water law, public lands, environmental law, and other related topics. Zellmer is published on a variety of environmental topics. She served as a committee member on the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council Committee on Missouri River Recovery. She is active in the ABA’s Section on Environment, Energy, and Resources, in particular, the Section’s committees on public lands and on water resources. Prior to teaching, she was a trial attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, litigating public lands and wildlife issues for various federal agencies, including the National Forest Service, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service. She also practiced law at Faegre & Benson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and clerked for the Honorable William W. Justice, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas. Professor Zellmer obtained her bachelor’s degree from Morningside College and her J.D. from the University of South Dakota School of Law. She also received her L.L.M in Environmental Law from the George Washington University National Law Center.

Amy Beatie began her tenure at the Colorado Water Trust in 2007, after nearly six years practicing water litigation at two different Front Range water law firms.  Prior to practicing water litigation, she clerked for the Honorable Gregory J. Hobbs of the Colorado Supreme Court.  She obtained her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and her law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.  While in law school, she helped found the University of Denver Water Law Review, and eventually served as its Editor-in-Chief.  She now sits on its Advisory Board, as well as the Advisory Board of Metro State University’s One World One Water Center and the Board of Directors of the Colorado Water Congress.  In May of 2013, she received the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Emerging Leader award.

Panel 4

Retired Justice Jean Dubofsky is an attorney who has represented litigants in state and federal courts — primarily appellate courts — in constitutional, tort, workers’ compensation, commercial, criminal, civil rights and family law cases. Dubofsky served as a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court from 1979 until 1987, the first woman appointed to the court. She was lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the successful constitutional challenge to Amendment 2 to the Colorado Constitution; the case, Romer v. Evans, is the first time – 1996 – that the United States Supreme Court recognized gay rights. Awards she has received include the ABA Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, the ACLU Carle Whitehead Memorial Award for “exceptional commitment and dedication to civil liberties and the state of Colorado,” and the Boulder Daily Camera Lifetime Achievement Pacesetters Award. She has served on the boards of Bell Policy Center, the Colorado Center for Law and Policy, Rocky Mountain Wild and Boulder Community Hospital. Dubofsky is a 1967 graduate of Harvard Law School and a 1964 graduate of Stanford University.

Retired Justice Alex Martinez served as a member of the Colorado Supreme Court from 1997 to 2011. He was appointed by Governor Roy Romer. Justice Martinez served as Deputy State Public Defender in Denver. He began his career as a judge in 1983 when he was appointed by Governor Richard Lamm to the Pueblo County Court. In 1988, he began his nearly decade-long position on the Colorado 10th District Court. He has received numerous awards including the Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement from the University of Colorado, the Pioneer in the Hispanic Community Award from the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Bar Association. Justice Martinez also serves on the Reed College Board of Trustees and the Servicios de la Raza Board of Directors. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado in 1973 and his J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law in 1976.

Retired Chief Justice Michael Bender was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court in 1997. He became Chief Justice in 2010 until January 2014. In 2013, Chief Justice Bender received the Colorado Judicial Institute’s Distinguished Judicial Leadership Award and the Judicial Branch’s award for Outstanding Service and Leadership. Prior to his appointment to the Colorado Supreme Court, Chief Justice Bender was President and shareholder of Michael L. Bender, P.C. He practiced with Bender & Treece, P.C. between 1983 and 1993. Chief Justice Bender served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver College of Law from 1981 to 1986. He also served as Division Chief for the Denver Public Defender (1977-1978) and Supervising Attorney for the Jefferson County Public Defender (1975-1977). Chief Justice Bender earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1964 and his J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law in 1967. He also attended the Institute of Criminal Law and Procedures Masters Program at the Georgetown Law Center in 1967.