You may not realize it, but 2012 was almost as dry as the record drought year Colorado experienced a decade ago. One reason you haven't heard about it is that water users (cities, farmers, water districts, industries, etc.) have spent large amounts of money on conservation, improved efficiency, water storage and other traditional means of drought planning since then. This routine, self-interested water planning - which takes place every year - largely goes unreported unless there is a compelling reason making it newsworthy. Except for some articles, especially in agricultural cities like Greeley, Pueblo and Grand Junction, 2012 did not create the hysteria of 2002.
In 2003, I drafted the following article in response to the 2002 drought - Colorado's driest year in recorded history (based on a century of streamflow records). More specifically, the article was written in response to an unusually large number of bills proposing to change Colorado Water Law submitted to the Colorado General Assembly (Colorado's legislature) after the drought. Too many of these proposals were poorly thought out, driven by the emotion of a record dry year.
The article was never published, but I offer it here to document the reasons why proposed Referendum A in 2003 was such a bad idea, as I expect this kind of proposal will return to Colorado politics following future drought years. If many large reservoirs on the South Platte River downstream of Denver don't fill this winter and spring, we could be in for a second extremely dry year in a row, making the kind of news stories we saw in 2002.
In 2003, I was particularly struck by the flood of proposed water bills in the 2002-03 legislative session, some of which made no sense at all, as I discussed then:
2003 DROUGHT PROPOSALS
It seems like a political opportunity to address some hot topic commanding the attention of the public-at-large is sometimes so compelling as to encourage abandoning all reason.
DON'T ASK STATE TO CONFISCATE WATER RIGHTS
Please be careful, and don't let uninformed promoters of political dogma destroy a beneficial water law and allocation system that has worked well for 160 years.