Historic water rights settlement reached with Navajo, Hopi

Map of the Navajo and Hopi, which unanimously approved a historic water rights settlement
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  • Navajo Nation Council unanimously approves water rights settlement for Colorado River water in Arizona.
  • Settlement ends long-standing legal disputes and secures funding for water infrastructure projects.
  • Settlement provides access to both Upper and Lower Basin Colorado River water, groundwater, surface water, and wash water.
  • Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribes also unanimously supported the agreement.
  • Settlement includes funding for the iiná bá–paa tuwaq’atsi Pipeline, Four Corners Project, and other critical water delivery infrastructure projects.
  • Federal legislation is expected to be introduced in Congress.

May 27, 2024 — In a historic move, the 25th Navajo Nation Council unanimously approved the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement AgreementOpens in a new tab. last week. This landmark agreement settles the Navajo Nation’s claims to water rights for all Colorado River water in Arizona and ends years of legal disputes among the tribes, state, and federal governments.

Settlement Details.

The comprehensive settlementOpens in a new tab. provides the Navajo Nation with a substantial volume of water from both the Upper and Lower Basins of the Colorado River. This includes all groundwater underlying the Navajo Nation, surface water reaching the Nation from the Little Colorado River, and wash water reaching the Nation south of the Hopi Reservation. The agreement also secures approximately $5 billion in funding for essential water infrastructure projects.  The funding will require congressional appropriations.

The settlement, involving 17 participants including the U.S. government, Arizona, private parties in northeastern Arizona, the Hopi Tribe, and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribes, marks significant collaboration among these entities. The Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribes also unanimously supported the agreement.

This settlement quantifies the Navajo Nation’s water rights and offers several advantages that continued litigation would not have provided. These include access to reliable Upper and Lower Basin Colorado River water, the ability to utilize Arizona water in New Mexico and Utah, the flexibility to use Upper Basin water in Lower Basin communities, access to alternative groundwater sources, and substantial funding for critical water infrastructure projects.

Next Steps.

Following the Navajo Nation President’s signature, federal legislation is anticipated to be introduced in Congress. The settlement is expected to significantly impact the Navajo Nation by providing essential water resources and infrastructure to communities, fostering growth, and improving the quality of life for its members.

Deborah

Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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