(PARKER, AZ.) The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) Tribal Council in western Arizona has approved a System Conservation Agreement which will provide the Tribes with more than $2 million per year in exchange for fallowing 1,884 acres of farmland on the Reservation. The agreement with the Lower Colorado Region of the Bureau of Reclamation will make the conserved water available for storage in Lake Mead. It is estimated that the conserved water will total approximately 11,000 acre-feet a year. The agreement was approved by the Tribal Council at its Aug. 6 meeting.
CRIT benefits on multiple fronts from this Agreement. In addition to the economic incentives, the fallowed land will be more productive when it is farmed in the future, and some of the revenues will be used to improve CRIT irrigation systems.
Funding for the Agreement to leave water in Lake Mead is provided by Reclamation, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Denver Water in the Upper Basin, and the Environmental Defense Fund.
This is not the first time CRIT has aided regional drought relief in ways that benefited the on-reservation economy. In 2016, CRIT approved an agreement to receive $1.6 million a year to fallow 1,591 acres for two years.
CRIT Tribal Chairman Dennis Patch stated, “This agreement allows our tribes to receive economic benefits from the water rights we have fought so hard to secure. Indeed, that fight has paid off in terms of economic opportunities for CRIT and drought relief for the State of Arizona.”
The System Conservation Agreement pays CRIT $2,025,730 to fallow 1,884 acres for one year starting October 1, 2018 and ending September 30, 2019. The acreage being fallowed is approximately 3% of the currently irrigated land on the Arizona side of the Reservation. There is an option for a second year to fallow the same acreage.
Chairman Patch added, “The Tribal Council will continue its efforts to make sure CRIT is fairly compensated for this most precious resource. It’s a message the state and federal governments have heard loud and clear and this agreement is further proof that CRIT has an important seat at the table in terms of Colorado River water.”
The Colorado River Indian Tribes have the first priority water right in the Lower Basin of the Colorado River dating from the establishment of their reservation in 1865. The Tribes have the right to divert 662,402 acre-feet per year for use in Arizona and 56,846 acre-feet per year for use in California.
CRIT Vice-Chairman Keith Moses added, “As our conservation efforts continue, we will continue to reap economic benefits from our water resources while at the same time offering much needed assistance to water users in the state of Arizona.”
Fallowing Reservation land within the Palo Verde Irrigation District has been in effect for the past 12 years to conserve water and to restore vitality to farmland. Payments for this fallowing program are made by Metropolitan Water District.