U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) | December 13th, 2018
The Colorado River Basin Tribes Partnership (a.k.a. Ten Tribes Partnership) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) initially undertook the Colorado River Basin Triba
The Colorado River Basin Tribes Partnership (a.k.a. Ten Tribes Partnership) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) initially undertook the Colorado River Basin Tribal Water Study to augment the data produced for the Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study of 2012. With five tribes in the Upper Basin and five tribes in the Lower Basin, and between us, holding rights to more than 2.8 million acre-feet per year of water from the Colorado River and its tributaries, the Ten Tribes Partnership was uniquely positioned to explore these issues. However, in so doing, we learned that the effort would also serve to facilitate a broader and, we hope, a better understanding of the role tribal water plays, and will play, in the Colorado River Basin over the coming decades.
In addition to producing technical information, the Tribes had other goals. First, we wanted to better understand how, at present, each of our individual water use scenarios fits into the overall scheme of Colorado River Basin management. Second, we wanted to know how future development of tribal water resources will alter Basin operations and affect other water users who are now using water to which a tribe may hold legal title, but which the title-holding tribe has not yet developed for its own use. Finally, we wanted to assess – to the extent present information allows – the role future development of tribal water rights will have on Basin operations.
Along the way, we encountered data gaps, modeling limitations, and uncertainties, but nonetheless, with the support of Reclamation, we managed to address those issues sufficiently that we now provide this Report. If there is a ‘take-away’ that was surprising, it is that, even under the most favorable of circumstances for rapid tribal water development, the amount of water that will be used by the Tribes is dramatically overshadowed by the effect of climatic conditions on the overall supply of water in the Basin. Nature is still in charge.
Challenges remain, but opportunities are in the offing. We hope this Report informs, resolves some uncertainty about how tribes perceive the future for their water uses, and establishes a baseline for discussions and development of relationships among tribes, states, the federal government, water managers, and water users throughout the Basin.