What We Do
WTI facilitates several projects to achieve two objectives: (1) enhance tribal capacity to manage water resources and to engage in water policy discussions; and (2) promote sustainable water use through collaborative problem-solving. WTI relies on several partners to support and contribute to each project.
Tribal Capacity Building Initiative
To help achieve WTI’s commitment to “enhance the capacity of Tribes to manage water resources and to engage in water policy discussions” (one of its two primary objectives), several partners came together to complete the first-even baseline assessment of tribal capacity in the Colorado River Basin. The report below provides the first step in an ongoing commitment to work with Tribes and various partners to address the capacity building needs, interests, and priorities of the Tribes.
WTI is also leading two other efforts to enhance tribal capacity (see information below):
• Indigenous Women’s Leadership Network
• Universal Access to Clean Water for Tribal Communities
Colorado River Basin Tribal Coalition
Several tribal leaders have come together to create the Colorado River Basin Tribal Coalition (initially named the Tribal Leaders Forum). The intent, as explained in the letter launching the Coalition, is to (1) create a place where leaders from all 30 sovereign tribes in the basin can come together, exchange information, and build consensus on shared interests; and (2) advance a whole-basin approach to water management in the Colorado River system. The Coalition operates as an ad hoc association of tribal leaders. All 30 tribes are invited to participate and contribute to the shared efforts. The Coalition is guided by a Leadership Team and an Advisory Team, and is facilitated by the Water & Tribes Initiative. See additional materials on the Resources Page.
Upper Basin Dialogue
Six federally recognized Tribes and ten conservation groups working in the Upper Basin of the Colorado River have come together to engage in ongoing dialogue around shared interests. The intent of this dialogue, co-facilitated by the Water & Tribes Initiative and the Colorado River Sustainability Campaign, is to create a forum for Tribes and conservation groups in the Upper Basin to work together on issues of common concern and advance shared priorities.
Dialogue participants have created a Shared Vision for the Upper Basin of the Colorado River Basin, representing the commitment of Tribes and conservation groups in the Upper Basin to identify joint interests and work together for the Colorado River Basin.
Universal Access To Clean Water for Tribal Communities
Forty-eight percent of Tribal homes in the United States do not have access to reliable water sources, clean drinking water, or basic sanitation. Over the last century, the U.S. federal government’s investment in modern water and sanitation systems largely bypassed Native communities. The mission of this project, led by the Water & Tribes Initiative, is to achieve universal access to clean, safe drinking water for all Native communities in the United States.
Indigenous Women's Leadership Network
The Indigenous Women’s Leadership Network (IWLN) is a new initiative catalyzed by the Water & Tribes Initiative. One of the core values of the IWLN is the important role that women play in tribal communities. The intent is to connect and support Native women working in the areas of water, natural resources, and the broader environment within the Colorado River Basin. IWLN seeks to engage past, present, and future Native women leaders – to learn from each other, mentor one another, and support each other. Several Native women have stepped forward to establish this unique network. Nora McDowell (Fort Mojave), Lorelei Cloud (Southern Ute), and Crystal Tulley-Cordova (Navajo Nation) serve as the founding co-chairs. And Heather Tanana (Navajo Nation), a research professor at the University of Utah, is coordinating the IWLN.
WTI works with several partners to convene at least two basin-wide gatherings each year. The gatherings are designed to bring together Tribal and other leaders in the basin, exchange ideas and information, enhance relationships, and explore solutions to shared problems. A representative sample -- including agendas, participants, meeting summaries, videos, and other materials – are available below.
Outreach and Education
WTI staff and Leadership Team members regularly speak at conferences and workshops; conduct interviews with the media; serve on advisory panels, boards, and professional associations; and publish research and case studies.