Arizona and the Colorado River Indian Tribes Forge Historic Water Agreement

On April 26th, 2024, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs and other prominent figures participated in a signing ceremony that finalized agreements allowing the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) to market a portion of their Colorado River water allocation to entities outside of their reservation.


This landmark agreement represents a critical step forward in implementing the Colorado River Indian Tribes Water Resiliency Act of 2022. The Act itself granted CRIT the legal authority to enter into agreements for various water management practices, including leasing, exchanging, storing, and conserving their allocated Colorado River water. The signing ceremony signifies the culmination of efforts to translate this legal framework into practical action.


The most significant takeaway lies in the enhanced control the CRIT tribes now have over their water resources. Prior to this agreement, an outdated framework restricted the tribes' ability to make independent decisions regarding their water allocation. This new agreement ushers in an era of tribal sovereignty and self-determination in water management. Governor Hobbs herself emphasized this point during the ceremony, highlighting it as "a new chapter for tribal sovereignty and self-determination, where tribal leaders have the freedom to manage their resources and, by extension, their futures."


The ceremony itself, held at the Bluewater Resort on the CRIT reservation near Parker, Arizona, brought together key figures from both Arizona and the federal government. The presence of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland alongside Governor Hobbs and other Arizona officials underscores the national significance of this agreement. Governor Hobbs also took the opportunity to acknowledge the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) for its instrumental role in facilitating the agreements.


It's important to note the geographical context of this agreement. The CRIT reservation encompasses a vast 300,000 acres along the Colorado River, a river that serves as the lifeblood of the entire area. Understanding this geographical dependence on the Colorado River adds another layer of significance to the agreement. By empowering CRIT with greater control over their water allocation, this agreement has the potential to contribute not only to tribal self-determination but also to the overall health of the Colorado River itself.


Click here to read the agreement.


The potential impacts on Colorado River water allocation and how this agreement might serve as a model for tribal water management in other regions are key areas of interest. This Arizona-CRIT agreement represents a significant development with the potential to reshape water management practices in the years to come.

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Shaina Shay is an accomplished water professional with over a decade of experience in water policy, management, conservation, and community outreach. Her passion for pragmatic information sharing drives her work across the U.S. and Australia, where she has held roles with investor-owned utilities and as a senior water market specialist. Shaina's commitment to the field is reflected in her leadership positions within the American Water Works Association (AWWA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Southern Arizona Water Users Association (SAWUA).