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For decades, too many Native American tribes in the Colorado River basin have been denied their fair share of water. Too many families on too many reservations have not had the access to clean water that most Americans enjoy. Today, Congress took a step in the right direction with the Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement Act, a bill included in the large omnibus package, the final legislative act of 2020. Audubon supported this settlement and its many benefits including:
- Long-needed water infrastructure for citizens of the Navajo Nation in Utah, as well as access to freshwater and wastewater facilities
- Affirmed allocation of 81,500 acre-feet of water for the tribe in Utah
- More than $200 million from the federal treasury and $8 million from the State of Utah to develop infrastructure for water services on the Navajo reservation in Utah
- The right to lease their water off reservation (a right currently denied other tribes in the Colorado River Basin)
- Final settlement of all claims for the Navajo Nation in Utah, avoiding the need for future litigation.
As climate change impacts increasingly threaten the Colorado River, the Navajo-Utah settlement will make certain that underserved communities on the Navajo reservation have access to water. Moreover, it ensures the Navajo can realize the full benefit of their water rights as they choose, for their families, their economy, and for the Colorado River and every living thing that depends on it, including hundreds of species of birds.
Audubon will continue to advocate for sensible water legislation and policies at the local, state, and federal levels.