Water & Tribes Initiative | Colorado River Basin
The Colorado River provides water to more than 40 million people in two countries and seven states. The demand for water currently exceeds available supply in any given year. This structural imbalance is further complicated by chronic drought and the uncertainty of impacts from climate change.
Since 2017, the Center has been working with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, Walton Family Foundation, Ten Tribes Partnership, and many other individuals and groups to enhance tribal capacity and advance sustainable water management in the basin through collaborative decision-making.
Twenty-nine federally recognized tribes in the basin depend on the waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including cultural and religious activities, domestic, irrigation, commercial, municipal and industrial, power generation, recreation, instream flows, wildlife, and habitat restoration.
These tribes hold legal rights to a significant amount of water, many of which are the most senior in the basin. Combined, the tribes hold rights to roughly 20 percent (or 2.9 million-acre feet) of the water in the Colorado River basin. With the oldest water rights in the basin, the tribes are in a position to play a significant role in balancing water demand and supply and otherwise shaping the future of the region.
In response to this situation, the Center's Director and Senior Fellow Daryl Vigil are working with the Ten Tribes Partnership (and other tribes) to enhance their capacity and role in basin-wide policy and decision-making. They also convene workshops and forums that bring together tribal, state, and federal leaders along with a diversity of stakeholders to address difficult issues and examine options for the future.
- Map of Tribes in the Colorado River Basin
- Leadership Team, Water & Tribes in the Colorado River Basin (May 2019)
- Basin-wide Workshop Summary, February 13-14, 2019 (We-Ko-Pa, Fort McDowell, Arizona)
- Working Paper # 1 – The Emerging Role of Tribes in Governing the Colorado River (February 2019)
- Tribal Water Study (December 2018)
- Gathering of Tribes and Others at 2017 CRWUA: Sense of the Meeting
For more information, please contact Matt McKinney.
- Bidtah Becker, Navajo Nation
- Leland Begay, Ute Mountain Ute
- Lorelei Cloud, Southern Ute Tribe
- Jason John, Navajo Nation
- Nora McDowell, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe
- Margaret Vick, Colorado River Indian Tribes
- Jay Weiner, Quechan Tribe
- Peter Culp, Culp & Kelly (Mary Kelly, alternate)
- Julia Guarino, Western Environmental Law Center
- Jason Robison, University of Wyoming, College of Law
- Tanya Trujillo, Colorado River Sustainability Initiative
- Garrit Voggesser, National Wildlife Federation
- John Weisheit, Living Rivers
- Mike Wight, Ancestral Lands Program, SW Conservation Corps
- (Stephanie Minnaert, Escalante River Watershed Partnership, alternate)
- Daryl Vigil, Jicarilla Apache Nation, co-facilitator
- Matthew McKinney, Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy, co-facilitator