A drought is cutting Colorado River usage. But this tribe has water to spare — and lease

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2022 - 12:00pm
Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2022 - 11:46am

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Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

Colorado River
M. Quinn/National Park Service
The Colorado River.

The Colorado River is in dire straits. It provides water to millions of us here in the arid Southwest, and ongoing drought driven by climate change is threatening its future. But one Arizona tribe is in a unique position: It has water to spare.

The Colorado River Indian Tribes have senior rights to a sizable portion of the Colorado’s water. And now, they want to lease some of it to others — water they’ve saved through conservation in the way they farm their land and have for millennia.

But they can’t lease the water without federal approval, and a bill introduced by Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly is making its way through Congress now to do just that.

Amelia Flores is the chairwoman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes.

The Show spoke with her to learn more about the situation, and she said members of the tribe gave their approval to water leasing back in 2019 at the ballot box, and that the tribe has already done a lot to try to keep the Colorado flowing.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the tribe gave approval to water leasing in 2019.

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