One Basin

The Water & Tribes Initiative issues a shared vision statement for the sustainable, resilient use of the Colorado River and its tributaries for people and nature

As the Colorado River Basin grapples with reduced river flows brought on by a prolonged drought, those of us who rely on the river for our health and wellbeing face several challenges. One of these is finding solutions that address historic inequities around securing and developing tribal water rights.

Why is this important? Because Tribes throughout the Colorado River Basin can play a critical role in helping to manage the Colorado River. Collectively, the basin’s 30 sovereign Tribes hold water rights to more than 3 million acre-feet of Colorado River water, which equates to about 25% of the river’s annual flow.

Recognizing the important role of Tribes in charting a viable future for the basin, Sonoran Institute is participating in an ongoing dialogue with Tribes and stakeholders around new ways to manage the Colorado River.

This May, the Water & Tribes Initiative comprising five Tribes and 10 conservation groups, including Sonoran Institute, in the Upper Colorado River Basin (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming) issued a shared vision statement to promote and support the sustainable, resilient use of the Colorado River and its tributaries for people and nature, including commitments to:

  • Ensure the spiritual, cultural, and ecological integrity of the Colorado River while providing water for Tribal homelands and other human use.
  • Promote and support reliable access to clean water for all Tribal members and other residents of the Colorado River Basin.
  • Incorporate the realities of drought and climate change, among other priorities.
  • Integrate traditional indigenous knowledge with Western Science to better represent the consequences of alternative management scenarios.

This shared vision of the future represents an important collaboration among Tribal and conservation groups and stands as one of several recent examples of Tribal leadership on Colorado River issues.

Collectively, our hope is that this statement will be the first of many examples of ongoing, productive collaboration between Tribes, conservation organizations, and federal and state officials working together to sustain the Colorado River.

It is incumbent upon water users and all leaders to find common ground and ensure the sustainability of the Colorado River. We encourage individuals and groups with diverse needs and interests to embrace more holistic visions for the river and to work together to address the river’s toughest challenges