Date: Friday, May 27, 2022
Oljato-Monument Valley, UTAH – Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo joined Senator Mitt Romney, Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox and Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez today to execute the Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement Agreement. The agreement, which was approved by Congress in 2020, is funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which makes a historic investment in fulfilling claims of Indian water rights.
“Having modern water infrastructure is not only crucial to the health of our kids and families – it's also important to economic opportunity, job creation and responding to the intensifying effects of climate change,” said Secretary Haaland. “As we seek to strengthen Indigenous communities and support Tribal self-governance, today’s action and investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help provide the Navajo Nation with the autonomy and flexibility to design and build appropriate water projects that will address current and future water needs.”
Over 5,000 members of the Navajo Nation live on the Utah portion of the reservation. Only half of the households within this area have indoor plumbing. Those without indoor plumbing must haul water, some as far as 50 miles round-trip, from Halchita to Monument Valley.
To help ensure the Navajo Nation has adequate drinking water infrastructure, the agreement affirms the Nation’s right to use 81,500 acre-feet of water per year from the San Juan River. This will protect existing water uses and support future development in this community.
The agreement also provides over $200 million in federal funding, which will be provided from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and $8 million in state funding for water infrastructure development on the reservation. Overall, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes a $2.5 billion investment to implement the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund, which will help deliver long-promised water resources to Tribes, certainty to all their non-Indian neighbors, and a solid foundation for future economic development for communities dependent on common water resources.