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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    

    discussions; and

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.

Leland Begay

White Mountain Apache Tribe

Navajo Nation

Quechan Indian Tribe

Becky Mitchell

Colorado Water Conservation Board

College of Law, University of Wyoming

Maria Dadgar

Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ex officio)

Southern Ute Indian Tribe

Fort Mojave Indian Tribe

Culp & Kelly

Colorado River District

National Wildlife Federation

University of Arizona (ex-officio)

Gila River Indian Community

Alice Walker

Kaibab Band of Paiutes

The Nature Conservancy

Southern Nevada Water Authority

Living Rivers

Sonoran Institute (ex-officio)

Leadership Team
Backbone Support

Backbone Support Team


Anne Kalmer Cainion

Program Manager, Colorado River Sustainability Campaign

Communications Director, Ignition Strategy Group


Heather Tanana

Coordinator, Universal Access to Clean Water, University of California-Irvine

Website Manager and Graphic Artist, Peak Marketing & Design

Nina Gruber

Administrative Manager, Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy

Coordinator, Indigenous Women’s Leadership Network, Western Resource Advocates


WTI relies on a diversity of partners to provide funding and to otherwise support its objectives and activities. The current list of partners includes the following:

Fiscal Agent and Administrative Home

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Core Supporters

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Other Supporters

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