It started with the Snake River Basin Adjudication.
Randy Stapilus was present, writing for Idaho newspapers, when one of the hottest fights in recent decades in Idaho – about the water rights at the Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River – was hashed out, in the early 80s. And followed the aftermath, as part of the settlement involved adjudicating the water rights in the whole of the Snake River Basin. That meant a court would have to pass judgement on the water used in about 87% of the states, about 150,000 water rights.
It has been an astounding complex action, but also in many ways a successful one. In 1993 Ridenbaugh Press began publishing the Snake River Basin Adjudication Digest, to follow the many developments in the case and help keep participants and onlookers informed. We’re still publishing it, even as the case winds gradually toward resolution and a new set of adjudications in Idaho’s Panhandle get underway.
In 1995, we expanded our focus to look at water rights – not water quality, conservation or other issues, but simply water availability and rights – nationally, in the monthly National Water Rights Digest. The timing was fortunate. Water rights traditionally have been a concern mainly in the arid parts of the western states, and they remain a hot topic in those places. But concerns about water supply, and who gets the right to use it, have multiplied in relatively water-soaked places from Maine to Florida to the Great Lakes to Alaska and Hawaii. The national digest is available electronically monthly from Ridenbaugh Press.