February 8, 2023 – There were 34 congressionally enacted Indian Water Rights settlements as of November 15, 2021, when the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was signed. On February 2, the Department of the Interior announced a nearly $580 million allocation to continue fulfilling those settlements using funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Reclamation Water Settlements Fund. Federal policy supports the resolution of disputes regarding Indian water rights through negotiated settlements. Settlement of Indian water rights disputes breaks down barriers and helps create conditions that improve water resources management by providing certainty as to the rights of all water users who are parties to the disputes.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests more than $13 billion directly in Tribal communities across the country. That includes $2.5 billion to implement the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund, which will help deliver long-promised water resources to Tribes, certainty to all their non-Native neighbors, and a solid foundation for future economic development for entire communities dependent on common water resources.
The Department will allocate nearly $460 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund this year for settlements enacted prior to November 15, 2021, and $120 million from the Reclamation Water Settlement Fund. The Reclamation Water Settlement Fund was created by Congress in 2009 and receives $120 million in mandatory funding annually from 2020 through 2029.
The February 2 announcement lists the following allocations:
- $30,500,000 – Aamodt Litigation Water Rights Settlement
- $22,000,000 – Ak-Chin Indian Water Rights Settlement Operations, Maintenance & Replacement
- $3,300,000 – Animas-La Plata (Colorado Ute) Operations, Maintenance & Replacement
- $18,225,000 – AZ Water Settlements Act Implementation – San Carlos Irrigation Project Rehabilitation
- $45,279,000 – Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement
- $156,937,000 – Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes – Montana Water Rights Protection Act
- $30,000,000 – Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement
- $79,000,000 – Gila River Indian Community – Pima Maricopa Irrigation Project
- $2,000,000 – Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Operations, Maintenance & Replacement
- $137,000,000 – Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project
- $39,114,000 – Navajo-Utah Water Settlement
- $6,700,000 – Nez Perce Water Rights Settlement Operations, Maintenance & Replacement
- $1,500,000 – San Carlos Apache Tribe (Distribution System)
- $8,000,000 – So. Arizona Water Rights Settlement – Farm Extension
“Water is a sacred resource, and water rights are crucial to ensuring the health, safety and empowerment of Tribal communities. Through this funding, the Interior Department will continue to uphold our trust responsibilities and ensure that Tribal communities receive the water resources they have long been promised,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “I am grateful that Tribes, some of whom have been waiting for this funding for decades, are finally getting the resources they are owed with the help of this crucial funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”