"We are the river people and we will always be the river people," Chairman Dennis Patch of the Colorado River Indian Tribes said. Photo: CRIT Manataba Messenger
Environment | National

Colorado River Indian Tribes look to water rights as potential boost for economy

The Colorado River Indian Tribes are interested in leasing their water rights to entities throughout Arizona.

Discussions took place in 2015 and 2016 among state and local officials, The Arizona Daily Star reported. Plans call for cities like Phoenix and Tucson to lease water from the tribe's share of the Colorado River.

The talks coincided with the end of the Obama administration and no deals have been reached. But Chairman Dennis Patch wrote a letter to tribal citizens earlier this month, confirming the tribe's ongoing interest in the idea.

"The economic benefits of these rights could be the most substantial in CRIT's history," Patch wrote in the letter, which announced a "high priority" water briefing that took place on September 12.

In the letter, Patch said revenues from water leasing could be used to improve the "run-down" Bureau of Indian Affairs irrigation system on the reservation, which spans the Arizona-California border. He also said other communities could benefit in times of drought by tapping into the tribe's share.

The tribe uses its share of the Colorado River for agricultural and irrigation purposes. The river runs through the northwest and western portions of the reservation.

Tribes in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah retain water rights to the river. The Deep Green Resistance, a group in Colorado, has filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking to recognize the river's rights to “personhood."

Read More on the Story:
Water bailout? Colorado River tribes pose statewide leasing idea (The Arizona Daily Star September 24, 2017)
Does the Colorado River Have Rights? A Lawsuit Seeks to Declare It a Person (The New York Times September 26, 2017)