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Navajo Nation to vote on water rights deal

By Daniel Kraker

Flagstaff, AZ – The proposed settlement would give the Navajo Nation 31,000 acre-feet of water a year from the Colorado River, and the un-appropriated flows from the Little Colorado River. An acre-foot is enough to supply two typical households for a year.

The compact calls for the federal government to spend about 700 million dollars on three water delivery systems. The Western Navajo pipeline which Flagstaff would have the option to tap into would transport water from Lake Powell to Tuba City and Cameron. A lateral pipeline would carry four thousand acre feet of water to the Hopi reservation.

Other projects would pump water out of the C Aquifer and distribute it to Leupp, Dilkon and Ganado.

Critics of the deal say the tribe deserves more and are urging lawmakers to vote down the bill. They say the settlement forfeits Navajo water rights for the benefit of other water users.

But George Arthur, the chair of the Navajo Council's resources committee and the bill's sponsor, says while the Navajo Nation may have the right to more water, it makes sense to settle for less, in exchange for help with the infrastructure that's needed to get the water where it's needed.

"For the Navajo Nation, back in the 70s, we had barrels and barrels of water, today, we're discussing buckets of water, 20 years from now, we may be looking at cups of water."

If the Navajo Nation Council signs off on the deal, it would still need the approval of several other parties, including the Hopi Tribe and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District. It eventually would need Congressional approval, as well as the appropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the new infrastructure.