Closure of Navajo Coal Plant Raises Questions about Water Rights

Apr 5, 2017

The Navajo Generating Station near Page is slated to close in 2019. That raises questions about what might happen to the water the plant currently draws from the Colorado River. Arizona Public Radio’s Melissa Sevigny reports. 

Credit Salt River Project

The coal plant’s lease does not specifically address what will happen to the water after closure. The Arizona Department of Water Resources released a statement saying "it is premature to anticipate what might occur with the NGS water rights.”

But Stanley Pollack, an attorney for the Navajo Nation, says the tribe should have use of the water for economic development. "They expected when the power plant ceased to operate, that that water would return to their use. We’ve been counting on that for a long time," he says.

NGS is allotted 34,000 acre feet of water annually from Lake Powell. Pollack says technically that water must be used on the Navajo Nation.

A spokesperson for the Salt River Project, which operates NGS, said it is “willing to work with the Nation” on this issue, assuming no new operator is found to keep the plant open.