Arizonans celebrate Colorado River tribes’ landmark water agreement

April 26, 2024
Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs (Photo Courtesy of the Office of Governor Katie Hobbs)

Arizona’s Governor and ADWR Director joined with the Colorado River Indian Tribes and top federal officials on Friday in signing documents implementing an agreement allowing the tribes to market portions of their Colorado River allocation to water users off-reservation.

The signing event represents a critical step to implement the Colorado River Indian Tribes Water Resiliency Act of 2022.

Present at the event to execute the agreements at the Bluewater Resort on the CRIT reservation near Parker were Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, U.S. Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona, as well as Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton and Tom Buschatzke, Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

From left: ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, and U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly.

Both Governor Hobbs and Director Buschatzke participated in the signing ceremony.

In her remarks at the event, Governor Hobbs gave a gracious nod to Director Buschatzke “and your entire team” for the Department’s years of effort to help make the marketing agreements a reality.

“Director Buschatzke, I feel like this is the 100th time I’ve said this since I took office, but we are lucky to have you leading the Arizona Department of Water Resources and I want to thank you and your entire team who have spent years working on this,” the Governor said.

According to a statement released by the tribes, the agreements signed on Friday “will move CRIT one step closer to strengthening its sovereignty over its water resources to improve the lives of future generations of CRIT members while protecting the life of the river.”

Governor Hobbs observed that the agreements bring an end to “an outdated framework” that restricted the tribes from making choices about allocating their own water resources.

CRIT Chairwoman Amelia Flores, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs sign historic water-marketing agreement. Photo credit: John Wright, Parker Pioneer.

“The celebration today is the beginning of a new chapter for tribal sovereignty and self-determination, where tribal leaders have the freedom to manage their resources, and by extension, their futures,” said Governor Hobbs.

She also noted the important role the tribes played “as a partner in protecting the Colorado River” when they participated in the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan to help stabilize Lake Mead.

The CRIT reservation stretches along the Colorado River on both the Arizona and California side. It includes approximately 300,000 acres, with the river serving as the focal point and lifeblood of the area.