September 5, 2023 — On Thursday, August 31, 2023, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland joined members of the Hualapai Tribe in Arizona to celebrate a $312 million water rights settlement. The agreement followed over a decade of negotiations.
The Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2022 resolved the Tribe’s longstanding water rights claims in Arizona. It establishes a $312 million trust fund for the Tribe to develop water infrastructure on its reservation. The agreement aims to provide secure access to water resources for the Tribe and surrounding communities, while also fostering economic growth and Tribal sovereignty.
Administration Commitment to Tribal Water Rights.
“Today we celebrate a settlement that was achieved by true collaboration – with Department of the Interior officials, Tribal representatives, stakeholders and other water users – to finally deliver water to the Hualapai Tribe and its future generations,” said Deputy Secretary Beaudreau.
Assistant Secretary Newland added, “This investment in and commitment to Indian Country, while long overdue, is unprecedented. It has led to real change on the ground in many Tribal communities, including right here at Hualapai.”
The Biden-Harris administration has allocated over $3.1 billion for Indian water rights settlements to date, the most by any administration in U.S. history. This includes more than $2 billion from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund.
Impact and Future Outlook.
Indian water rights settlements like this aim to provide reliable water supplies to Tribal Nations, address environmental and health concerns, and enable economic growth. These agreements also work toward ending decades-long disputes between Tribal Nations and neighboring communities, fostering collaborative water resource management.
The Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office at the Interior Department oversees such claims, working with various agency partners, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs.