In 1976, the United States Supreme Court decided Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, holding that principles of judicial administration relating to "contemporaneous exercise of concurrent jurisdictions'" command that the federal courts abjure congressionally granted, previously attached jurisdiction of federal claims to reserved water rights.
This Article explores the impact of Colorado River and examines critically the Court's choice to remit to state courts claims involving federally created Indian water rights. Part I of the Article traces the development of federal-state water law relations and analyzes the Colorado River decision in light of this development. Part II examines the jurisdictional implications of the decision and concludes that most, if not all, reserved rights cases will now be tried in state courts. Parts III and IV explore the problems of exclusive state control of these claims. Part III describes the justifications for a federal forum in reserved rights cases and suggests that the policies underlying the doctrine of protective jurisdiction be applied to preserve federal adjudication of reserved rights. Part IV discusses the special status of American Indians, concluding that this status warrants reconsideration of the Colorado River doctrine.
Robert H. Abrams, Reserved Water Rights, Indian Rights and the Narrowing Scope of Federal Jurisdiction: The Colorado River Decision, 30 Stan. L. Rev. 1111 (1978)