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Navajos table water rights vote

By Daniel Kraker

Flagstaff, AZ –
The Navajo Nation has long been a sleeping giant when it comes to water rights in Arizona. But now the tribe is asserting its right to claim water from the Colorado River and other sources.

The proposed settlement would grant the Navajo Nation 31,000 acre feet a year from the River, as well as all the unallocated water from the Little Colorado River, which on average is about 160,000 acre feet a year. It also would allow almost unlimited use of water from the C and N aquifers.

The agreement would also settle the water rights claims of the Hopi Tribe.

The settlement is controversial on the Navajo Nation. Some people there believe the tribe should go to court to try to secure more water. But advocates of the deal say the tribe is better off settling for a smaller amount, in exchange for help with actually getting the water to where it's needed.

The settlement calls on the federal government to spend about 700 million dollars on three water projects, including a pipeline to take water from Lake Powell to the western side of the reservation.

Navajo lawmakers postponed the vote to allow more time for public hearings and debate. If they do eventually sign off on it, it would still need approval from the Hopi Tribe, the state of Arizona, and eventually Congress.