Supreme Court's water ruling complicates life for 173,000 on the Navajo Nation

Published: Monday, June 26, 2023 - 3:07pm

The Supreme Court ruled last week that while the Navajo Nation has a right to access water flowing on the reservation, the U.S. government doesn’t have to secure that water.

Perhaps no region of the Southwest collectively faces more water challenges than the 173,000 tribal members who live on the Navajo Nation. A third don’t have access to clean, running water. And it’s expensive for those who have to haul water. Estimates are that trucking water  increases its costs by more than 60 times the price of plumbing it in. 

So the Navajo Nation has pushed back on last week’s Supreme Court decision which ruled that the U.S. doesn’t have a duty to secure water for the tribe. 

"We are disappointed that we did get the ruling that we did," said Michelle Brown-Yazzie, the assistant attorney general of the Nation’s water rights unit. "However we are not going to stop fighting for our water rights for our Navajo people."

The Navajo government said it will focus on settling rights over a Colorado River tributary.

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