Navajo Nation water settlement on hold

Indian Country Today reported October 29 that a controversial water rights agreement regarding Navajo and Hopi claims to Colorado River water was placed on hold by the Navajo Nation Council.

The agreement would quantify and permanently settle various claimes and would provide about 200,000 acre-feet per year of surface water to the Navajo Nation, 8,500 acre-feet to the Hopi Tribe, and joint tribal management of thousands of acre-feet of water from two major aquifers.

Proponents of the settlement urged its approval because delay would allow further competition for water that is already over allocated and the agreement could bypass a current court-approved Oct. 13 deadline in related litigation over the Colorado River.

Opponents fear the loss of inherent aboriginal rights to all the water on traditional tribal lands and object to the possible harm to future generations from quantification of the water amount. Others disagree with sharing shortages during drought, with the amount of water allocated, and with the uncertainty of federal water-delivery commitments.

The proposed settlement agreement is 102 pages long and added to other attachments, exhibits, and letters, totals more than 400 pages. The length of the document was another factor in requests for additional time.

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