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Lower Colorado River Cultural Water Demand - Overview and Tribal Demand

Cultural water demand in the Lower Colorado River Planning Area, organized by water source and water demand sector, is shown in Table 7.0-10.  Total cultural water demand averaged approximately 2,899,700 AFA during the period from 2001-2005.   Almost 98% of this demand is by the agricultural sector with approximately 2,835,100 acre-feet of annual demand.  Agricultural demand occurs in all of the basins with the exception of Tiger Wash and Western Mexican Drainage basins.  About 66% of the agricultural demand is met by surface water of which all but 3% is Colorado River water.  Municipal demand averaged 50,900 AFA during the period 2001-2005.  Municipal demand is primarily met by Colorado River water and the municipal sector is the only sector that utilizes effluent.  Industrial demand, primarily related to dairies and feedlots, averaged 13,600 AFA during this period.  Tribal water demand is included in these totals.

Table 7.0-10 Lower Colorado River Planning Area average cultural water demand by sector (2001-2005)

Table 7.0-10

Figure 7.0-17 Average Annual Basin Water Demand, 2001-2005 (in acre-feet)

Figure 7.0-17

As shown on Figure 7.0-17, cultural demand volumes vary substantially between planning area basins and ranges from less than 300 AFA in the Tiger Wash and Western Mexican Drainage basins to 1,037,000 AFA in the Yuma Basin.

Tribal Water Demand

Tribal lands in the planning area include the Cocopah, Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), Gila Bend, Fort Yuma-Quechan and the Tohono O’odham reservations. The Cocopah, Fort Yuma-Quechan and CRIT hold Priority 1 Colorado River entitlements totaling 677,573 AFA.  The CRIT entitlement is 662,402 acre-feet, the largest in the state and about a third of the state’s non-CAP entitlement.  By comparison, the total non-tribal Priority 1 entitlement in the planning area is 290,923 acre-feet.  Annual tribal demand is approximately 658,000 AFA, most of which is agricultural irrigation on the CRIT Reservation in the Parker Basin.  Almost the entire San Simon Wash Basin is within Tohono O’odham Reservation boundaries. 


The Cocopah Reservation is entirely within the Yuma Basin.  The reservation has about 1,000 tribal members and consists of three parcels (East, West and North Cocopah) located south of Yuma.  The tribe has approximately 2,400 acres of land under irrigation, leased to non-tribal farmers.  The tribe operates a casino and a number of community facilities. (ITCA, 2003)  There is no tribal water utility but the Cocopah Environmental Protection Office tests the quality of domestic wells and monitors agricultural water use to ensure that the tribe does not exceed its annual Colorado River allocation. This office also conducts weekly monitoring of groundwater levels and Colorado River water quality within the limitrophe region that crosses the boundaries of the West Reservation. (Cocopah Indian Tribe, 2006)  The tribe’s Colorado River entitlement is 8,821 AFA of Priority 1 rights and 2,026 acre-feet of Priority 4 entitlement for areas south of Morelos Dam.

Fort Yuma-Quechan

The Fort Yuma-Quechan Reservation is located primarily in California.  Only 4% of the reservation land is in Arizona with 45 residents located just east of Yuma in the Yuma Basin.  Tribal offices, RV parks and two casinos are also located in Arizona.  The tribe owns a 700-acre farm which is leased to a non-Indian farmer.  Some of this farm is apparently located in Arizona (ITCA, 2003).

Colorado River Indian Tribes

Most of the CRIT Reservation is located in Arizona in the Parker Basin with a small portion in California.  The Colorado River Indian Tribes include the Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi and Navajo, and about 3,500 active tribal members. The primary tribal community is Parker, which contains non-tribal lands and Poston with about 400 tribal residents.  The CRIT operate the CRIT Regional Water System (CRIT, 2005) and the CRIT Water Department serves the area outside the Parker Town limits. Tribal municipal demand is relatively small.

The primary economic activity on the reservation is agriculture. Pursuant to Arizona v. California, 99,375 acres of irrigated land were decreed with an associated annual Colorado River entitlement of 662,402 acre-feet.  According to the 2006 Lower Colorado Accounting System, actual irrigated lands in Arizona totaled 72,610 acres, including land irrigated by lessees.  The amount of irrigated acreage in Arizona reportedly averages between 72,000 to 80,000 acres. CRIT Farms manages over 15,000 acres of alfalfa, cotton, durum wheat and other crops (CRIT, 2005).

Other economic activities on the reservation include recreation, gaming, governmental services and light industry.  The tribe operates two sand and gravel facilities, one at Parker and one north of Ehrenberg. These facilities supply concrete ready mix, asphalt and sand and gravel products to La Paz County and to neighboring counties in California. (CRIT, 2005) 

Tohono O’odham

Water demand on the Tohono O’odham reservation is primarily related to municipal/domestic uses in the tribal communities, particularly at Sells, and farming in the southern part of the San Simon Wash Basin at Papago Farms. The Tohono O’odham Utility Authority Water Department serves a total of about 3,200 customers and has 1,676 wastewater customers on the entire reservation which stretches into the Pinal and Tucson Active Management Areas.  The Water Department is working to connect small systems into a single system that can be maintained in a central location. There are currently seven such systems in operation. (TOUA, 2007a)  In the planning area there are plans to connect two community systems south of Gu Vo and connect another community with a regional system by the end of 2007.  The water supply for the reservation comes from 73 wells located in and around the reservation. (TOUA, 2007b)

Gila Bend

The Gila Bend Reservation (San Lucy District) is part of the Tohono O’odham Nation but is located on 10,409 acres north of Gila Bend, divided by the Gila River. Completion of Painted Rock Dam resulted in flood damage to district lands including destruction of a 750-acre farm and the necessary relocation of tribal members from Sil Murk Village to the 40-acre San Lucy Village just north of Gila Bend. Approximately 600 tribal members reside in the district (TON, 2007).  The village includes residential dwellings, tribal offices and library.  The Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act (P.L. 99-503), enacted in 1986, authorizes the Tohono O’odham Nation to purchase up to 9,880 acres of private lands in Pima, Pinal or Maricopa counties to replace the reservation lands that were rendered unusable for economic development due to flooding. In 2003, the Nation acquired a 135-acre parcel in Glendale to construct a Casino in order to provide needed services to its members. (TON, 2009)


water drop  Continue to Section 7.0.7 Cultural Water Demand - Municipal Demand


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