(The Center Square) – Droughts in the Colorado River Basin have been a problem lately. The Property and Environment Research Center, a liberal environmental group, wants the federal government to allow Native American tribes to fix the problem.
29 Native American tribes combined control 25% of the Colorado River’s annual flow; that’s over 1 trillion gallons of water. However, since the 1800s, Native American tribes have not been permitted to lease this water to the general public without congressional approval.
Two US senators from Arizona, Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, have introduced a bill intended to address the problem. The Colorado River Indian Tribe Water Resilience Act (S.3308) is supported by the Property and Environment Research Center. The two Arizona senators are the sole sponsors of the bill.
The bill would allow these 29 tribes to lease water from the Colorado River Basin. However, PERC recommends going further and allowing all Native American tribes to lease their water supply.
“Reforming tribal water rights would give tribes the autonomy they deserve and provide an additional source of income if they choose to participate,” said Kat Dwyer, PERC marketing and media manager, in a statement. . “It also encourages conservation and benefits Western communities by helping to avoid costly water reduction mandates during times of extreme drought and record high temperatures.”
PERC notes in a guidance document that allowing the tribes to sell this water would be very beneficial to them financially. He estimates enabling sales would generate between $563 million and $1.3 billion a year. This translates to between $3,200 and $7,300 per person residing on each given reservation.
PERC also recommends providing funding to tribes to support the development of their respective water markets if the tribes support the measure.