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Brief by Central Staff

Water – March 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Water gets bought and sold all the time in the West, and, you guessed it, somebody is setting up a water market on the Internet.

The website is, and it’s operated by Azurix Corp. Azurix is a spin-off from Houston-based Enron Corp., which trades electricity and natural gas.

According to a company press release, buyers and sellers in a 17-state region will use the exchange to offer excess water or storage capacity for sale, or to solicit water, and Azurix will collect a fee on each transaction. The website is running now, but the water wheeling and dealing won’t start until March 15.

“Until now, who gets water has been a government decision,” said Rebecca Mark-Jusbasche, Azurix chairman. “It’s time to assign more economic value to the resource, and that’s what a market can do.”

There are some complications, though. For one thing, interstate electric grids and natural-gas pipelines are required to operate as common carriers, open to everybody willing to pay. But there’s no law requiring water canal companies to convey water they don’t own, so delivery could be a problem.

For another, state water laws generally make private inter-state water transfers illegal — that is, a Gunnison rancher can’t sell his water to a Las Vegas developer. But state control of water has been eroding, to some degree on account of federal environmental laws.

This is something to keep an eye on.

The recent buyer of the Taylor Ranch (La Sierra) near San Luis, Lou Pai, is an Enron executive. He says he bought the 77,000 acres for his personal pleasure and use, but still …

Enron donated $1,500 to Rep. Scott McInnis during the 1996 election cycle, which indicates that the company has an interest in friendly Colorado politicians.

In its February edition, the Crestone Eagle quotes Crestone resident Louis Jarvis, who said he had done extensive research in Texas on Enron. He fears that Enron will try to buy the Baca, which the Nature Conservancy and Park Service have recently expressed an interest in purchasing.

Add the affinity between the Bush family and big business in Texas, and the possibility that Texas Gov. George W. Bush might be president by this time next year. The export of Closed Basin water, via the Rio Grande, to a water market in Texas starts to sound like a possibility.

But maybe it’s all just a coincidence — an Enron spin-off opening a water market, while an Enron executive buys a big Valley ranch, while a Texas company contributes to a Colorado congressman’s campaign, while the executive branch of the federal government might come under the control of the son of a former Texas oilman.

At any rate, it’s worth watching.