Chair Grijalva Cheers $1.7 Billion for Tribal Water Rights Settlements, Visits Gila River Indian Community with Interior Sec. Haaland

Tucson, Ariz. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today issued the following statement on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s announcement to invest $1.7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to fulfill settlements for tribal water rights claims. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland made the announcement during a visit to southwestern Arizona to examine the effects of ongoing drought in the West.

“Today’s announcement is a long-awaited moment in history, and I celebrate it proudly,” Chair Grijalva said. “Too many tribal communities have been waiting years—even decades—to finally have access to the water they’ve been promised by the federal government. I commend Secretary Haaland for her leadership in fulfilling our trust responsibility and for recognizing the devastation that two decades of drought has caused in Arizona and the southwest. At the same time, I know these investments only solve part of the problem. Congress must get back to work to pass permanent annual funding for the many tribal water rights settlements that still have yet to be paid.”

The $1.7 billion will be invested in critical infrastructure projects to help deliver long overdue water resources to tribes. Prior to the announcement, Chair Grijalva and other members of the Arizona delegation accompanied Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to visit the Gila River Indian Community, one of the tribes benefitting from settlement funding, located approximately 30 miles south of Phoenix, Ariz. The group toured the site of one of the infrastructure projects that will be funded with these new investments. Photos of the visit are available here.

Chair Grijalva and Secretary Haaland also participated in a roundtable today examining impacts of the decades-long drought on western water resources and how climate change is exacerbating those impacts.

Access to clean, reliable water is a major challenge for many tribal communities; a 2019 report found that Native American households are 19 times more likely than white households to lack running water and adequate plumbing. Adequate water access and sanitation are essential to public health and economic development.

Many tribes, like the Gila River Indian Community, have significant legal claims to water resources across the United States, referred to as water rights. To secure their water rights, tribal governments often negotiate a settlement agreement that ensures delivery of water to their communities. These settlement agreements fulfill the federal government’s trust responsibility and promote self-determination and economic self-sufficiency for tribal governments.  

There are 34 enacted tribal water rights settlements as of December 2021. The funding announced today, along with funds from the Reclamation Water Settlement Fund, will be allocated to the following settlements and tribes this year: Aamodt Litigation Settlement (Pueblos of San Ildefonso, Nambe, Pojoaque, and Tesuque), Blackfeet Nation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Crow Nation, Gila River Indian Community, Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement and Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, San Carlos Apache Nation, Tohono O’odham Nation, and White Mountain Apache Tribe.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021 invests a total of $2.5 billion into tribal water rights settlements.

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