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Navajo Water Settlement Included In Federal Spending, COVID-19 Relief Package


A long-running water rights settlement between the Navajo Nation, state of Utah and the federal government has become law. It was part of sweeping COVID-19 and government-funding legislation signed by President Trump Sunday night. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act was among several bills included in the $2.3 trillion package. It ends decades of negotiations between tribal, federal and state officials, and settles all current and future water claims made by the Navajo Nation in Utah.

The bill also affirms the tribe’s right to more than 26-and-a-half-billion gallons of water a year from Utah’s Colorado River Basin apportionment, and invests $220 million in water infrastructure on the portion of the reservation located in the state.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez calls the bill’s passage "historic." He says it’ll allow increased access to drinking water for many Navajo families. According to President Nez’s office, more than 40% of Navajo Nation households in Utah lack running water or adequate sanitation.

The settlement act was approved by the Navajo Nation Council in 2016 and introduced in Congress by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from Arizona, Utah and New Mexico last year.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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