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SCOTUS agrees to hear Navajo Nation Colorado River water rights case

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U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a long-running water dispute between the Navajo Nation and the federal government over Colorado River rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a long-running water dispute between the Navajo Nation and the federal government. The tribe says officials have failed to protect their water rights.

In 2003, the Navajo Nation sued the U.S. Department of the Interior, claiming that the government hadn’t lived up to past treaties entitling the tribe to water from the Colorado River. Last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and allowed the case to continue.

The 27,000-square-mile reservation spans parts of northern Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Nearly a third of Navajo families live without running water, which contributed to the heavy toll taken by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes as reservoirs on the Colorado River have dropped to historic lows amid a decades-long drought in the Southwest.

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.