Our Work: Project Overview

Climate resilience is the capacity to adapt or respond effectively to change in the face of extreme climate events. The goal of the Native Waters on Arid Lands project is to increase the climate resilience of tribal agriculture and water resources on American Indian lands of the Great Basin and Southwest.

Climate change predictions for the Great Basin and Southwestern U.S. include decreased water availability, extended droughts, changes in precipitation amounts and timing, reduced surface water availability, declining groundwater supplies, and warmer temperatures — all of which may create challenges for agricultural producers.

Because of close cultural and economic ties to natural resources, geographic remoteness, and economic challenges, some say that American Indian agriculturalists will be some of the most vulnerable populations to climate change. Native Waters on Arid Lands asks the question, “What can tribal farmers and ranchers do to adapt?”

geographic area

The Native Waters on Arid Lands project area includes Native American reservations in the Great Basin and American Southwest. Of the 28 tribes/reservations located within the study area, the Native Waters on Arid Lands team selected a diverse group of nine tribal partners for in-depth study. The nine tribes/reservations are:

  1. Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
  2. Navajo Nation
  3. Hopi Tribe
  4. Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley
  5. Colorado River Indian Tribes
  6. Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray
  7. Zuni Tribe
  8. Walker River Tribe
  9. Gila River Tribe

In this project, a multi-state, multidisciplinary team of researchers and extension experts works with tribal producers and governments to address water availability for sustainable agriculture on American Indian reservations in the Great Basin. Objectives of the Native Waters program fall into three categories: Research, outreach, and evaluating resiliency.

Research Objectives

  • Analyze water availability on tribal land under different climate scenarios
  • Evaluate agricultural water rights policies
  • Assess costs and benefits of using Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) tools
  • Gather traditional knowledge about ecological, agricultural, and sociocultural changes due to past/present climate events

Outreach Objectives

  • Educate, communicate and work with tribal communities to enhance understanding of the impacts to water resources and agriculture from extreme climate events
  • Host an annual Tribal Summit and regular on-reservation meetings with tribal members
  • Collaboratively design and deploy an information portal for tribes to share and access project information

Objectives for Evaluating Resiliency

  • Identify water systems infrastructure limitations
  • Conduct cost/benefit analyses for water management improvements
  • Identify policy, economic, and societal barriers to enhancing resiliency of water and agriculture
  • Increase tribal capacity to adapt and respond to a range of climate scenarios

Funding for this project is provided by a grant from the US Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

News Articles, Fact Sheets, Reports...
Assessing Tribal College Priorities for Enhancing Climate Adaptation on Reservation Lands
This study was designed to assess the priorities for enhancing climate adaptation on reservation lands. It summarizes the results of an assessment implemented at the 2016 Annual First Americans Land-Grant Consortium Conference. The study represents 25 of the 37 tribal colleges and universities in the US.
Fillmore, H.M., Singletary, L., and Phillips, J. 2018, Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education, April 2018, 163: 64-78

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Learn more about the program's team

Loretta Singletary
Program Leader & Contact
Olga Ilchuk
Program Contact