Droughts in the Colorado River Basin have been a problem in recent times. The Property and Environment Research Center, a free-market environmental group, wants the federal government to allow American Indian tribes to correct the problem.
A combined 29 American Indian tribes control 25% of the Colorado River’s annual flow; that’s more than 1 trillion gallons of water. However, since the 1800s, American Indian tribes have not been allowed to lease that water to the general public without approval from Congress.
A pair of U.S. senators from Arizona, Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, filed a bill meant to address the problem. The Colorado River Indian Tribe Water Resiliency Act (S. 3308) has support from the Property and Environment Research Center. The two Arizona senators are the bill’s only sponsors.
The bill would allow those 29 tribes to lease water from the Colorado River basin. However, PERC recommends going a step further and allowing all American Indian tribes to lease their water supply.
“Reforming tribal water rights would give tribes the autonomy they deserve and provide an additional source of revenue if they choose to participate,” PERC marketing and media manager Kat Dwyer said in a release. “It also encourages conservation and benefits western communities by helping avoid costly water reduction mandates during periods of extreme drought and record temperatures.”
PERC notes in a policy paper that allowing tribes to sell this water would benefit them greatly financially. It estimates that allowing sales would generate between $563 million to $1.3 billion annually. That 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.
This article was originally posted on Let American Indian tribes sell their water, environmental group says