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Jason Robison

Jason Anthony Robison

S.J.D. 2013

Fellow, Harvard Water Security Initiative


“The Law of the Colorado River: A Contemporary Perspective on Its Transformation”

Colloquially called the “Law of the River,” an elaborate body of laws governs the allocation and management of water from the Colorado River and its tributaries in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Roughly forty-million people rely on this water for their lives and livelihoods. Encompassed within the domain where these flows meander are portions of seven U.S. states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming) and two Mexican states (Baja California, Sonora); major urban centers like Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Tijuana; expansive agricultural areas like California’s Imperial Valley; and numerous Indian and federal lands, including the Navajo Nation and Grand Canyon National Park. As evidenced by the scope and diversity of these interests, the Law of the River is literally definitional to this region of the world, including with regard to the economy, environmental conditions, political power, and social relations.

Currently confronting a historically unprecedented imbalance between water supplies and demands in and around the Colorado River Basin, my dissertation focuses on the existing composition and ongoing evolution of the Law of the River, approaching this subject from related analytical and normative angles. The essential nature of the Law of the River is initially considered through the lens of property law — i.e. as a “property” regime. An integrated model is then sketched out accounting for how the myriad doctrinal components of this regime interface with one another to constitute a collective framework. Subsequently comprising the heart of the dissertation is an examination of salient legal and policy issues facing this regime during this transformative period, including various measures and considerations bearing on how these issues are navigated by policymakers. Key concerns highlighted in this vein include resolving ambiguities related to the meaning of the Colorado River Compact, implementing novel conservation-oriented interstate water transfer schemes, reassessing recovery efforts for endangered fish species, and evaluating existing governance structures and administrative processes.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Property Law with Professor Joseph Singer, Harvard Law School, Overall Faculty Supervisor
  • Water Law with Professor Richard Lazarus, Harvard Law School, and Professor John Leshy, UC Hastings College of Law
  • Environmental History in the American West with Professor Rachel St. John, History Department, New York University

Additional Research Interests

  • Environmental & Natural Resources Law
  • Property Law
  • Administrative Law
  • American Indian Law
  • U.S. Legal History


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate 2009-2013
  • Harvard Law School, LLM Program 2008-2009
  • University of Oregon School of Law, J.D. 2006
  • University of Utah, B.S. 2003

Appointments and Fellowships

  • University of Wyoming College of Law, 2013-2014, Visiting Professor
  • Harvard University, Water Security Initiative, 2011-2013, Dissertation Fellow
  • University of Colorado Law School, Colorado River Governance Initiative, 2010-2012, Visiting Fellow
  • Harvard University, Water Security Initiative, 2011-2012, Research Fellow
  • Harvard Law School, 2010-2011, Summer Academic Fellow
  • Harvard Kennedy School of Government, 2010-2011, Teaching Fellow
  • Harvard College, Environmental Science & Public Policy Program, 2009-2010, Teaching Fellow
  • Harvard Law School, Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, 2008-2009, Research Fellow
  • University of Utah, American West Center, 2002-2003, Research Fellow

Representative Publications

Additional Information

  • Languages: English, Spanish

Last updated: March 12, 2015