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Bill introduced to ratify Hualapai Tribe water settlement

The Colorado River at Diamond Creek, on Hualapai land
Melissa Sevigny
The Colorado River at Diamond Creek, on Hualapai land

Congress will consider a bill finalizing a water rights settlement for the Hualapai Tribe in Arizona. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, it will resolve the tribe’s longstanding claims to the Colorado, Bill Williams, and Verde rivers.

Arizona Representative Tom O’Halleran introduced the bill to a House committee last week. It allows the Hualapai Tribe to divert 3,414 acre feet of water from the Colorado River each year. It also establishes a trust fund of $180 million to construct a project to convey the water to the Hualapai Reservation. A separate fund of $5 million will be set aside for carrying out the terms of the agreement.

The Hualapai Nation borders the Colorado River on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but the tribe has been unable to use the river’s water and depends upon a dwindling aquifer. Some of the money will be directed to groundwater monitoring.

The tribe hammered out the settlement with the State of Arizona and other parties, but the agreement must be ratified by Congress. Several attempts to do so have been made since 2016.

The Colorado River’s reservoirs are currently at historic lows due to drought and climate change.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.