In 1908, when the Supreme Court issued the Winters v. United States opinion, it recognized that when the federal government creates a federal reservation, it also reserves the water necessary to fulfill the purpose of that reservation.[1]

Subsequent cases have helped develop the Indian reserved rights doctrine. In Arizona v. California (1963)[2], the Supreme Court affirmed Winters and established that the practicably irrigable acreage standard was an acceptable means to quantify these rights. The Court did adopt the special master’s conclusion that

Neither Winters nor Arizona fully established the parameters of these federal reserved rights, leaving significant unsettled legal questions about the scope and authority over these rights. Among these issues is a crucial practical question: How can tribes use federal reserved rights?

This website provides a forum to delve into this issue. It provides general information on tribal water rights in the Colorado River basin and offers interviews relating to how tribes are currently using or seeking to develop Winters rights. The interviews included are the view of individuals in their own professional capacity. They are not intended to portray the official stance or policy of the affiliated tribe.

[1] Winters v. United States, 207 U.S. 564, 577 (1908).

[2] 373 U.S. 546 (1963).