What and where is the most powerful or fun or harrowing experience you’ve ever had with water?
I’ve had fantastically fun raft trips with my wife, Bobbie, family and friends rafting the Arkansas, Rio Grande, Dolores, San Juan, Green, various segments of the upper Colorado, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and Idaho’s main Salmon. We’ve also enjoyed five memorable houseboat trips up and down the magnificent expanse of Lake Powell. The most harrowing experience was a houseboat trip on the reservoir in 1988 with our children, Dan and Emily and cattle dog, Pepsi. The boat’s steering mechanism went out. Our wallowing albatross careened back and forth between sheer canyon walls. The heart of the caged Colorado rages in Powell. Only Pepsi believed her Captain would cross the bar into safe harbor at Dangling Rope Marina.
What property of water most fascinates you? How did your appreciation of this property affect your book?
Its luminous poetry and musicality. Walk along any stream, pond or reservoir. Hear and see creatures rejoicing. The great blue heron, children at play, voices of the ancestors bubbling just beneath the surface. The Hopi believe people emerged climbing a reed from the lake at the center of the earth into this glittering surface world. The Bible describes God as a breath of fresh air moving across the waters. Awe becomes our artistic imagination as we work, play and pass through the four corners states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. We are now integrating in-stream flow and recreational water rights into our farm, city and commerce water law portfolios. We are working to restore wrecked riparian areas as we prepare for inevitable population increases. Preserve, Conserve, Sustain and Inspire, these are four great water principles to live by.
What attitude did you have about water and people that changed in the course of researching and writing your book?
I appreciate the complexity of water politics more than ever. People are endlessly fascinating. We attempt to corral and solve “the water problem.” But it’s the same problem Native Americans and all other immigrants into this great land have always had to address as climate changes. Civilization is always at risk. Smart water governance in community, amidst flood and drought, is the heritage and future of our human utilitarian spirituality.
In writing your book, what was the greatest difficulty you encountered in conveying the feeling of what you’ve learned about water and people?
How to translate water law as a response to the ever-evolving customs and values of the peoples of the Americas in response to a wildly varying climate. Take the opportunity to examine ancestral Pueblo water works on the ground at Mesa Verde and Hovenweep. Native Americans, not Hispano or Anglo farmers and cities, were the first practitioners of water conservation as they built ditches and reservoirs. Visit Navajo teachers in their classrooms and along their San Juan, Little Colorado and Colorado River homelands. Navajos are still hauling water to their homes while the rest of us enjoy water faucets we turn and take for granted. Native American reserved and ancestrally- exercised water rights date back to 1868 and earlier. Yet, federal financial support for the necessary water infrastructure has mostly benefitted the states in helping to develop their interstate water apportionments. Now Congress is turning to the question of funding Indian water rights settlements throughout the land. Will we help water justice prevail?
What is your favorite image/passage in your book (please quote a line or two)?
From “Fishing with Will” in Living the Four Corners: “But fishing with my brother in the Forgotten 16, that’s a part of our respective Four Corners journeys I’ll not be forgetting. Upon the rocks at sunset on the Horseshoe Bend, Will says to me, ‘I got to the camping because you were doing it and it turned out just right for me.’”
What is your hope for Colorado and the World’s water future?
That we share with the environment and each other our precious capability for problem solving and getting along.
What is your favorite water book by another author?
Digging The Old West: How Dams and Ditches Sculpted An American Landscape by Karmen Lee Franklin. A feast for the eyes and artistic imagination, chock full of photography, art and prose centering on how water ditches in Colorado have created a contemporary cultural landscape founded on Native American, Hispanic, Moorish, and Anglo immigrant roots.
You can order Justice Hobbs' book from Continuing Education in Colorado, Inc here!