Arizona congressional delegation introduces $5 billion tribal water rights legislation

Jul 9, 2024, 6:00 PM

A windmill draws water for livestock in Leupp, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation, March 9, 2024. (AP Phot...

A windmill draws water for livestock in Leupp, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation, March 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca, File)

(AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca, File)

Members of Arizona’s congressional delegation introduced legislation Monday that would authorize a water rights settlement with three Native American tribes in the Southwest, providing more certainty for the arid region.

The proposal carries a price tag of $5 billion — larger than any such agreement enacted by Congress.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona said the legislation marks a historic step forward in resolving what has been a decades-long dispute with the Navajo Nation as well as the Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute tribes.

The legislation would ratify a settlement agreement that was approved by each of the tribes in May. In all, the tribes would be guaranteed access to more than 56,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water along with specific groundwater rights and protections. The legislation also would establish a homeland for the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe.

The funding included in the legislation would be distributed to special trust funds to pay for building and maintaining water development and delivery projects, including a $1.75 billion distribution pipeline.

“Securing water rights for these tribes upholds their sovereignty and lays the path for their growth and prosperity through increased investment in water infrastructure,” Kelly said.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona said the federal government’s obligation to the tribes to provide drinking water could not be more pressing as climate change exacerbates what he referred to as a multigenerational drought.

For the San Juan Southern Paiute, tribal President Robbin Preston Jr. said the opportunities that would come from the legislation would be life-changing for his people.

“With reliable electricity, water and housing, our people will have opportunities that have never been available to us before,” he said in a statement. “This legislation is more than a settlement of water rights; it is the establishment of an exclusive reservation for a tribe that will no longer be forced to live like strangers in our own land.”

While efforts to negotiate an agreement have been generations in the making, tribal leaders have said the ongoing drought, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic were among the challenges that drove the latest round of talks.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

3 dead after apartment fire broke out in Phoenix Ahwatukee area...

Phoenix FD investigating homicide after 1 woman, 2 men found dead in apartment fire

An apartment fire broke out around 6:30 a.m. on July 15, 2024, according to the Phoenix Fire Department. Three people died as a result.

1 hour ago

Arizona arsonist sentenced to 4 years in prison for 2 house fires...

Arizona man sentenced to 4 years in prison after setting 2 houses on fire last year

A 19-year-old man was sentenced to four years in prison after igniting two West Phoenix houses on fire last May, authorities said.

3 hours ago

Perfect Pear Bistro Chandler set to open soon...

Perfect Pear Bistro expands to Chandler for 1st location outside Tempe

Perfect Pear Bistro expanded its operations outside of Tempe for the first time, bringing its signature grilled cheeses to Chandler on Monday.

3 hours ago

Triple Twist, Powerball produce 2 big winners over weekend...

Payne Moses

Gas station in the East Valley sells $1.75M lottery ticket to lucky winner

Check your tickets if you played Triple Twist or Powerball because slips worth $1,745,000 and $100,000 were sold at Arizona gas stations this past weekend, Arizona Lottery officials announced.

3 hours ago

Don Toliver concert set to take place in October...

Payne Moses

Don Toliver’s ‘Psycho Tour’ headed to Footprint Center in October

A Don Toliver concert in Phoenix is scheduled as part of the "Psycho Tour." The Footprint Center will host the rap sensation on Oct. 18.

3 hours ago

Chinese migrants wait to be processed after crossing the border with Mexico near Jacumba Hot Spring...

Associated Press

Border arrests plunge 29% in June to the lowest of Biden’s presidency as asylum halt takes hold

Arrests for illegally crossing the border plunged 29% in June, the lowest month of Biden's presidency, according to figures released Monday.

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Arizona congressional delegation introduces $5 billion tribal water rights legislation