"FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — For thousands of years, an Arizona tribe relied on the Colorado River's natural flooding patterns to farm. Later, it hand-dug ditches and canals to route water to fields.
Now, gravity sends the river water from the north end of the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation through 19th century canals to sustain alfalfa, cotton, wheat, onions and potatoes, mainly by flooding the fields.
Some of those fields haven't been producing lately as the tribe contributes water to prop up Lake Mead to help weather a historic drought in the American West. The reservoir serves as a barometer for how much water Arizona and other states will get under plans to protect the river serving 40 million people.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes and another tribe in Arizona played an outsized role in the drought contingency plans that had the state voluntarily give up water. As Arizona faces mandatory cuts next year in its Colorado River supply, the tribes see themselves as major players in the future of water."