New federal legislation that will enable the Colorado River Indian Tribes to lease a portion of its federal water allocation is gaining broad support from Arizona stakeholders.
CRIT PRESS RELEASE:
Following the conclusion of a listening session held by the Arizona Department of Water Resources in December, 2020, interested parties were invited to submit public comment on the proposal. Supportive comments, including those written by CAWCD, SRP, Phoenix and numerous environmental organizations, outnumbered comments in opposition by a margin of 7:1.
CRIT Chairwoman Amelia Flores stated, “These endorsements from such diverse groups make a compelling case to Congress that this bill will provide needed drought relief, affirm CRIT’s sovereignty and create economic opportunities for our region.”
The proposal by CRIT would enable the tribe to lease portions of its federal water allocation that have previously been consumptively used. These leases could help provide Arizona with water for critical environmental projects and needed drought relief while creating significant new economic opportunities for CRIT Tribal members. In 2019, by a margin of more than 60%, CRIT members voted to give the Tribal Council authority to seek enabling federal legislation to lease water. That support now extends well beyond the Tribal borders.
The Water for Arizona Coalition sent a letter of support to the Arizona Department of Water Resources which states in part: “This legislation and its related agreements would remove a critical barrier CRIT faces in fully using its water rights by authorizing CRIT to lease, exchange and store underground a portion of its consumptively used decreed Colorado River water allocation off of its reservation, within the Lower Basin of the State of Arizona.” The Water for Arizona Coalition is chaired by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and supports innovative practices and smart policies to ensure a reliable water supply to meet Arizona’s water needs.
The National Audubon Society also weighed in stating the legislation would provide “exactly the kind of flexibility needed to save the life of the Colorado River.”
Local government supporters include the cities of Phoenix, Gilbert, and Peoria as well as the Mohave County Board of Supervisors. Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, which serves 10 municipalities, says the proposed legislation advances “equity among Arizona water users,” and legislation could “reduce unsustainable groundwater withdrawals.”
The Salt River Project sent a letter of support which said the legislation would, “provide important resources for off-reservation water users while also providing the Tribes with financial resources that are critically needed on the Tribes’ reservation.”
Central Arizona Water Conservation District’s letter of support states the legislation offers, “great promise with many more years of partnership,” and “support opportunities to provide Arizona Tribes with Colorado River decreed water rights greater flexibility to manage their resources.”
CAP General Manager Ted Cooke commented “CAWCD and CRIT have an established relationship working collaboratively on numerous projects over the last five years…This proposed legislation is a significant and historic change for CRIT.”
Support extends beyond correspondence to ADWR.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has issued a resolution in support of legislation that permits Tribal governments such as The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) to lease water off the reservation. The NCAI resolution states in part: “Water leasing authority presents unique economic development opportunities for tribal nations, while helping local non-Indian communities address critical impacts from ongoing drought conditions.” The NCAI, established in 1944, is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments.
Pinal Central, a media outlet that serves Pinal County, published an editorial which states, “This is an idea that is definitely worth exploring…”
If passed and signed into law the proposed federal legislation would allow CRIT to lease a portion of its federally adjudicated water right off its reservation, as numerous other Arizona tribes that have Congressionally enacted water settlements are already permitted to do.