A deal between a coalition of tribes and the Lower Colorado Region of the Bureau of Reclamation aims to address concerns over drought and water levels in the nation’s largest reservoir. The deal is also an economic boost for the tribes.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes, also known as CRIT, have approved an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to fallow land on its reservation and make the conserved water available for storage in Lake Mead.
The lake is the nation’s largest reservoir and water levels are at their lowest in decades.
"The State of Arizona is in great need of water," CRIT Tribal chairman Dennis Patch said. "If we're able to fix our system and allow us to irrigate what lands we have now and with the conservation methods..that will give us more water to make a water deal to help the state and overall the region."
The tribes will receive payments to fallow more than 1,500 acres for one year. That amounts to approximately 2 percent of currently irrigated land and about one percent of the irrigable acreage on the reservation.
Patch said the tribes received nearly 1.5 million from the deal and hope to continue with the program for another year.
"Tribes have to recognize what the water is worth in the southwest," Patch said."What we try to do is look at the benefits of the water to entities like Southern California, Central Phoenix, Tucson area."
Patch notes tribes have first rights to water in the Colorado river and were not at risk from reduced water levels in lake mead.