Drinking water in Indian Country

A representative of the United States made a statement in Geneva Switzerland on September 15, 2011 in response to the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Water and Sanitation from the rapporteur’s visit to the United States from February 22 to March 4, 2011.

Some people are reading into this statement that American Indian water rights should not be addressed by the UN independent expert on water.

I don’t think that one can make that assumption, but I’ll let you be the judge.

John Mariz, the American representative stated in relevant part:

“While we recognize the challenges presented by the report, we have conveyed to the rapporteur our concerns that the report often focuses on anecdotes that do not fairly depict the state of drinking water and sanitation in the United States. Moreover, the report makes some factual errors and does not cite sources for some statistics.

The United States also acknowledges that some indigenous communities face significant challenges with respect to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. However, the United States is taking steps to address these challenges in conjunction with Tribal and State governments.

The report does not take into full account the federal system of the United States, where a number of the issues raised may be most feasibly handled at the state or local level rather than through federal action. As the report notes, water in the United States is governed by a complex amalgam of federal and state statutes which make it hard to make generalizations; however, given the broad range of issues and situations in our country, it is impossible to have a one-size-fits-all solution.

As the report points out, there are considerable challenges that exist, such as in replacing aging infrastructure and providing drinking water to remote communities. We will give the report’s recommendations due consideration.”

Read the entire statement.

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