Colorado River Officials Weigh How to Cut Water, Include Tribes Ahead of Looming Negotiations

In a warm, overstuffed auditorium at the University of Colorado on Thursday, tribal representatives from around the Colorado River Basin had a message for their federal and state counterparts: Tribes won’t be cut out of key water talks that will decide the future of the basin.

“As we develop a post-2026 plan, it’s no longer acceptable for the U.S. to meet with seven basin states separately, and then come to basin tribes, after the fact, with a post-hoc explanation or rationalization of what was discussed, or even worse, what was decided,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona.

Why is it So Hard to Negotiate a Colorado River Conservation Deal?

Almost two months ago, the seven Colorado River Basin states blew past a federal deadline to negotiate significant cuts to their water usage.

There’s finally some concrete action. Water managers in California, which uses more Colorado River water than any other state, have agreed to reduce their usage by one-tenth in 2023.