Who We Are
The Colorado River flows 1,450 miles from the headwaters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Delta at the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. It provides water to more than 40 million people in two countries, seven states, and 30 federally recognized Indian tribes. The basin is home to 11 national parks and many awe-inspiring landscapes. Water use and management is governed by a complex set of laws, policies, and institutions, collectively referred to as the “Law of the River.”
The 30 Tribes in the basin have inhabited the region for more than 10,000 years. They depend on the waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries for a variety of purposes, including cultural and spiritual activities, domestic, irrigation, commercial, municipal and industrial, power generation, recreation, instream flows, wildlife, and habitat restoration. Twenty-two of the tribes have recognized rights to use 3.2 million-acre feet of Colorado River system water annually, or approximately 25 percent of the basin’s average annual water supply. In addition, 12 of the tribes have unresolved water rights claims, which will likely increase the overall volume of tribal water rights in the Basin.
Currently, many tribes are not fully using their recognized rights for several reasons, including lack of necessary infrastructure and funding; antiquated and inefficient delivery systems; and constraints on off-reservation use. Meanwhile, existing uses of basin water already exceed reliable supplies. With tribes planning to fully develop and use their water rights, other water users in the basin are concerned about how the expanded development of tribal water rights can be integrated with existing and future non-Indian uses of Basin water.
Historically, Tribes in the basin were not actively involved in planning, problem-solving, and decision-making. The Water & Tribes Initiative (WTI) emerged in 2017 with two objectives:
1. Enhance the capacity of Tribes to manage water resources and to engage in water policy
2. Support sustainable water use through collaborative problem-solving.
WTI is guided by a broad-based Leadership Team and funded by a diversity of partners (see Partners below). Two co-facilitators regularly bring together teams of individuals and groups to conduct research, provide outreach and education, design and facilitate multiparty dialogues, and otherwise support collaborative problem-solving.
Our Leadership Team
Click on team members to read their bios.
White Mountain Apache Tribe
Colorado Water Conservation Board
Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ex officio)
Backbone Support Team
Backbone Support, Colorado River Sustainability Campaign
Coordinator, Universal Access to Clean Water, University of California-Irvine
Administrative Manager, Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy