CRIT to make $2 million per year for fallowed farmland

The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) Tribal Council 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 August 6th, 2018 meeting.

According to a press release, CRIT sees this as a benefit to them on multiple fronts. In addition to the economic incentives, the statement says that the fallowed land will be more productive when it is farmed in the future, and that 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.

“This agreement allows our tribes to receive economic benefits from the water rights we have fought so hard to secure,” said CRIT Tribal Chairman Dennis Patch. “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 1st, 2018 and ending September 30th, 2019. The acreage being fallowed is approximately 3 percent 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 has the first priority water right in the Lower Basin of the Colorado River, dating from the establishment of the reservation in 1865. CRIT has 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.”


  1. Laurie Tomasino

    Just curious how much water the Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant sucks out of the river? ????

  2. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    I’ve always found paying farmers NOT to plant irresponsible and un-American. It’s basically a direct subsidy to maintain profitability for other farmers of the same crop. Then we have to pay someone to conserve water, rather than just cutting them off. Who ends up with paying these people? Money doesn’t grow on trees you know. Who do I contact to be paid if I want to turn off my water when I’m not home to conserve water. Interesting that to compel customers to conserve water they jack up the rates to make it more expensive. With these folks, they just pay them not to use water.

  3. Alan Nelson

    Only the amount they are authorized by law and agreement. It supplies the Central Arizona Project with water for inland Arizona Cities and Indian Tribes.

  4. Laurie Tomasino

    Alan Nelson I thought it supplied Southern California?

  5. David Page Sr.

    Laurie Tomasino yes you are correct. It’s the beginning of the metropolitan water district , which pumps the water to Southern California.

  6. Perhaps the tribes can use some of this money to repair roads they are responsible for maintaining.

  7. Alan Nelson

    I thought you were referring to the Wilmer pumping plant, on the AZ side. That one pumps to Central Arizona. The MET (MWD) pumping plant does supply water to Southern California. The reason that there is even a Parker Dam and Lake Havasu is because of MWD. Parker Dam was built expressly to store water for MWD, and the hydro-electric power plant was to power the pumps to pump the water out of Lake Havasu to the upper lakes and on the LA. But then again, they can only take the water that they are allotted, either by Federal Law, Agreement, or Court decision. Every drop of water in the Colorado River is allocated to someone. States, Counties, Cities, districts, Indian Tribes, Mexico, etc. The single one subject argued the most (most cases) in Federal Courts and the Supreme Court is the allocation of Colorado River water.

  8. Laurie Tomasino

    Alan Nelson so why does it seem to be that I only seem to hear about what the Indians have to give up?

  9. David Page Sr.

    Laurie Tomasino because they’re the only ones with any water left to negotiate with. Everyone else has used their allotment & are scrambling for water resources to insure their future.

  10. Laurie Tomasino

    David Page Sr. That doesn’t make any sense then…why, if they have extra would they be asked to fallow their land? ????

  11. Alan Nelson

    Indian Tribes have the highest priority water rights of all users. Even if they don’t use the water, they can do what they want with it. Sell it, lease it, barter with it, whatever. MWD and other users are asking (paying) CRIT to store their excess water in Lake Mead so: 1) It can be sent to other lower priority users and 2) To try and hold off Lake Mead hitting the low water point that would trigger mandatory cuts to other users. Less land being farmed means less water required for irrigation, and more that can be retained by the system.

  12. Alan Nelson

    This isn’t the same as the Government paying not to grow specific crops to keep prices at a certain point. This is to try and hold off the possible collapse of the Colorado River water system, and isn’t being paid by general tax money. The money is coming from the Metropolitan Water District, which is from the water bills of MWD water users in California.

  13. David Page Sr.

    Laurie Tomasino because it’s more profitable to fallow the land & make more money selling the water , than if they farmed it themselves. Especially when they can’t seem to make any profit farming. But that’s another subject.

  14. Laurie Tomasino

    David Page Sr. Nothing seems to make sense to me anymore. ????

  15. Maybe the question that should be asked is why Las Vegas and the Phoenix areas are still building at a record pace. They seem to be turning a deaf ear to all the reports about water shortages in the near future. Maybe its time to limit building permits and expansions without a viable plan that can show how the municipalities are going to supply water to them. Water will be more precious than gold here before long…

  16. A good question would be who initiated the deal to begin with… CRIT, or the other involved parties.
    @Laurie, Allocated water & physical water pumped are often different amounts but to answer your question, around a million acre feet per year. CAP on the other hand has the ability to pump more than that. You can look at this on the BOR website. CRIT doesn’t have to “give up” any water…they are choosing to be a part of this for whatever reason.
    @Alan, MWD is not a part of this deal, zero money is coming from them for this.
    @David and Lane, good points and questions.
    The laws and rules of the river and its water use are all available through here

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