CRRG Report ~ Tribal Water
The new report from the Colorado River Research Group (CRRG) Tribes and Water in the Colorado River Basin provides a concise overview of what is currently known about tribal rights in the basin.
While the report doesn’t feature any new “hot off the presses” research, it is very newsworthy and prime reading. The Colorado Basin tribes, and tribal rights, remain one of the most misunderstood and under publicized facets in efforts to better understand and solve the basin’s supply/demand imbalance. Admittedly, it’s a complicated subject, but it’s too important to ignore. Tribes in the basin already have legally quantified rights to roughly one-fifth of the river’s flow. The amount allocated to the tribes is sure to increase further as additional rights are quantified.
While those numbers concern many non-Indian water users, especially those already reliant on unused tribal allocations, the reality is that many tribes have long expressed an interest in exploring novel ways to benefit from those rights in ways that limit impacts to other users or ecosystems—such as leasing and forbearance agreements, and the dedication of rights to instream flows.
The imperative to include the tribes in Basin discussions and decision making was a major theme in our Mapping the River Ahead report. Virtually every Basin leader interviewed for this report emphasized the importance of engaging beyond traditional boundaries, whether among user groups or across state lines and other political divisions to pursuing cooperative solutions.
These are all long overdue conversations. An ongoing joint study among Reclamation and the Ten Tribes Partnership is a step in the right direction.
June 21, 2016