GRIC attends 2023 Colorado River Water Users Association
Gila River Indian News
Leaders from the Gila River Indian Community attended the annual conference of the Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA) at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino Dec. 13-15.
CRWUA is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that provides a forum for exchanging ideas and perspectives on the Colorado River uses and management with the intent to develop and advocate common objectives, initiatives and solutions.
GRIC Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis and Council Members Arzie Hogg, Ann Lucas, Jennifer Allison, Christopher Mendoza, Brian Davis, Sr. and Gordon Santos, Jr. attended the conference along with GRIC General Counsel Javier Ramos and staff from the Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project (P-MIP) and Gila River Indian Irrigation & Drainage District (GRIIDD).
“We had consultations with the Bureau of Reclamation,” Gov. Lewis stated. “We had an important meeting with Central Arizona Project as well because we are their largest single customer of Colorado water transport through the CAP.”
The conference included a panel on “Drafting a New Plan: Future Policies and Programs” featuring Gov. Lewis, Southern Ute Indian Tribe Vice Chair Lorelei Cloud, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California General Manager Adel Hagekhalil, The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River Program Director Taylor Hawes and Colorado River Water Conservation District General Manager Andy Mueller.
Gov. Lewis highlighted the Community’s solar-covered canal project, the first of its kind in the U.S. He added that the Community “got so many props on that” due to its significance and magnitude.
The Community’s delegation brought up big issues such as the ongoing drought and water rights that GRIC and other tribes face.
Gov. Lewis noted, “We reiterated our support for the ongoing trust responsibility between the federal government and tribes to make sure the tribes are included in the number of initiatives and processes that are ongoing.”
Tribes are involved in several aspects of water management such as the Colorado River Post 2026 operations and guidelines, a 20-year plan for how the Colorado River water is being used and allocated as well as potential cuts.
“In 2007, no tribes were a part of those guidelines,” said Gov. Lewis, “so looking at 20 years later when we’re negotiating for those post-2026 guidelines, tribes must be at the table. We fought for important influence and seats at the table; we need to protect our ongoing water rights as well and protect against mandatory cuts.”
According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River supplies water to 40 million people, including 30 tribes who own rights to about a quarter of the Colorado River water.
“We have convened 30 sovereign nations, the seven basin states and the federal government to sit at a table together to have a discussion, but that’s just one part of it,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “We need to have a better understanding of the science, the data — a baseline so that we’re walking into those rooms together with a common framework and common understanding.”
Gov. Lewis reiterated the need for tribes to have a voice when it comes to water rights. None of the federal projects will succeed without the backing and support of tribes, he said.
“I’m proud of our delegation,” he said. “We work together and we advocated really as a strong team for the Community to make sure that our Community water supplies, our Community water rights…[are] ongoing, that they’re being protected moving forward.”