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ANCESTRAL WATER: SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL
The Colorado River Compact (1922) and the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact (1948) do not affect obligations to Native American interests. Article VII and Article XIX, respectively, of the 1922 and 1948 compacts provide that: Nothing in this compact shall be construed as affecting the obligations of the United States of America to Indian Tribes. The Colorado River Storage Project Act of 1956, the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968, and the associated Criteria for Coordinated Long-Range Operation of Colorado River Reservoirs (Long-Range Operating Criteria) did not alter these compact provisions.
There are 29 indian tribes within the Colorado River Basin with vested water rights of 2,900,000 acre-feet. There are 22 tribes recognized by the federal government. Ten of the Colorado River tribes are organized as a coalition called the Ten Tribe Partnership (also here) and advocate for a greater tribal voice in management of the Colorado River Basin.
The tribes hold senior water rights due to a legal decision made in 1908 called the Winters Doctrine, or sometimes called the Federal Reserved Rights Doctrine. The priority date for such water rights are typically based on when the reservation was established, which usually pre-dates all other water rights by the dominant hydrosociety. Many tribes have quantified their water rights, somtimes through litigation or settlement, and others hold claims to water that have yet to be quantified and perfected.
In 2017 the 9th Distric Court of Appeals affirmed Tribal rights to Groundwater: Agua Caliente Tribe Vs Coachella Valley Water District
ADVANCING WATER JUSTICE FOR THE TRIBES (Literature Summary)
TRIBAL WATER STUDY OF 2018
INITIATIVES: Organized opportunities to advance water justice
The potential for increased use of tribal water rights (which, once ratified, are counted toward state-specific allocations where the tribal reservation is located). The Tribal Study of 2018 estimated that, cumulatively, the 10 tribes could have reserved water rights (including unresolved claims) to divert nearly 2.8 MAF per year. Of these water rights approximately 2 MAF per year were decreed and an additional 785,273 AF (mostly in the Upper Basin) remain unresolved. The report estimated overall, the 10 tribes are diverting (making use of) almost 1.5 MAF of their 2.8 MAF in resolved and unresolved claims. According to the study, the majority of unresolved claims in the Upper Basin are associated with the Ute Tribe in Utah (370,370 AF per year), the Navajo Nation in Utah (314,926 AF), and the Navajo Nation in the Upper Basin in Arizona (77,049 AF).
TRIBES OF THE COLORADO RIVER BASIN
BANDS OF THE SOUTHERN PAIUTE NATIONS (NUWUVI)
BANDS IN CALIFORNIA (receive water deliveries from Colorado River)
COLORADO RIVER BASIN SUPPLY AND DEMAND STUDY
Diversity Outreach Programs
INDIGENOUS WATER JUSTICE & ETHICS
BOOKS ABOUT THE FIRST NATIONS
The Bluff Principles
A draft document of these priciples were prepared: Bluff Declaration For Water Justice in the Colorado River Basin.
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