Water - A Life Issue in the Southwest

Jun 20, 2012

Native American Legislative Update - June 2012

Water - A Life Issue in the Southwest


Navajo-Gallup Water Supply
: In early June, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, joined Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and other leaders to break ground on the historic Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. This project will provide a long-term sustainable water supply to about 200,000 members of the Navajo Nation. Many of these tribal citizens' homes have never had access to clean running water. The project will begin to provide water to providing water to some communities within three years; it is expected to be completed twelve years from now. Secretary Salazar noted that the first phase of the project, near Gallup, New Mexico, will create about 450 jobs. As the project proceeds, it will provide employment for workers in neighboring communities. Read the Department of the Interior press statement here. http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Secretary-Salazar-President-Shelly-Break-Ground-on-Major-Infrastructure-Project-to-Deliver-Running-Water-to-Navajo-Nation.cfm

Navajo Water Rights: Senator Kyl (AZ) has introduced legislation (S. 2019) to approve an agreement with the Navajo Nation, which provides for a "settlement" of disputed water rights between the Nation and surrounding states and communities. Although the settlement seems to be acceptable to Navajo elected leaders, it is apparently very controversial among some Navajo people.

The settlement would allocate access to the waters of the Little Colorado River among Navajo and other residents of southwestern communities. The Little Colorado is a Colorado River tributary of which flows through western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. The Rio Puerco in northwestern New Mexico joins the Little Colorado River, forming 315 mile long tributary to the Colorado River The U.S. Geological Survey classifies the Little Colorado as a "stream." As a "transient desert river," it carries very little water at some times of the year. According to critics of the settlement, it limits Navajo use of the waters far too severely, and does not take into account future water needs for the growing Navajo Nation.

See more articles in the June 2012 NALU.

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