Kelly Introduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Ratify and Fund Historic Navajo Tribes Water Rights Settlement

Today, Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), alongside Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Representatives Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ-6) Greg Stanton (D-AZ-4), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-7), and David Schweikert (R-AZ-1) introduced the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement (NAIWRSA) Act of 2024, bipartisan, bicameral legislation ratifying and funding the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement, which will address one of the longest-running water issues in Arizona by securing water rights for the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe.  

The settlement will provide reliable and safe water for these communities, allowing the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe to lease their water, creating economic opportunities until local demand is met through new infrastructure. The settlement authorizes $5 billion to acquire, build, and maintain essential water development and delivery projects, including a $1.75 billion distribution pipeline. In total, the Tribes would be guaranteed access to over 56,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water, and specific ground water rights and protections. Additionally, this legislation will establish a homeland for the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe.   

Kelly’s bill would ratify the settlement agreement, marking a significant step toward securing Arizona’s water future and providing much-needed water delivery systems for the Tribes.  

“This legislation and the settlement it ratifies represent a historic step forward in resolving a decades-long water rights dispute, providing certainty and stability for the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, and the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe. Securing water rights for these tribes upholds their sovereignty and lays the path for their growth and prosperity through increased investment in water infrastructure,” said Kelly. “Ratifying this settlement honors our commitment to the tribes and helps secure our state’s water future, and we’ll work together as Republicans and Democrats to get it done.”  

“Our historic bipartisan legislation delivers real, lasting results for the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe by strengthening water security, creating economic opportunities, and providing certainty and stability so their communities can continue to thrive,” said Sinema. 

“The Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement and this legislation, which I am proud to introduce, will provide a long-lasting partnership between our state and Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, and the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe. This not only gives much-needed certainty to the Tribes but allows Arizona to better plan for a secure water future while providing for improved water infrastructure throughout the region,” said Ciscomani. 

“The tribes’ ratification of the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement was the historic culmination of a decades-long effort to bring water to Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, and it deserves full support from Congress,” said Grijalva. “As the climate crisis continues to exacerbate an already devastating multigenerational drought, the federal government’s obligation to deliver clean, safe water and water infrastructure to the tribes could not be more pressing. I urge my colleagues to move this legislation to the president’s desk quickly.”   

“When this settlement is approved through Congress, it will be a monumental achievement for Arizona – one that at last upholds long-neglected federal trust obligations to Tribes by ensuring access to a clean and reliable water supply, while protecting our single most precious resource for generations to come,” said Stanton. 

“I am proud to introduce this legislation in continued strong support of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe. This long overdue investment will not only allow these communities crucial access to a clean and reliable water source, but will ensure prosperity and opportunities in housing, healthcare, education, and more for generations to come,” said Schweikert.

Click here to read the bill text. Click here for a summary.    

See what Arizona Tribal leaders and stakeholders are saying about the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Act of 2024:  

“The State of Arizona is thrilled to support the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Act which will, at long last, provide access to safe, reliable water supplies to the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, and San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe,” said Governor Katie Hobbs. “This legislation is a testament to the tireless efforts all parties have made as we usher in a new era of collaboration between the State, tribal partners, and all Arizona communities who will benefit from the certainty and security that will come from achieving this historic water settlement.”  

“On behalf of the Navajo Nation, I would like to express my deep appreciation to Senator Kelly, Representative Ciscomani, Senator Sinema, Representative Stanton and Representative Schweikert and Representative Grijalva for introducing this historic legislation. The Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Act will secure the necessary resources to provide water to Navajo communities while at the same time resolving the most significant outstanding water claims in the State of Arizona,” said Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren.  

“We are so thankful to Senator Kelly and Senator Sinema, for introducing legislation that will not only provide our Tribe with water but will also ratify a treaty negotiated and entered into by the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe and the Navajo Nation decades ago. The Tribe has waited far too long to have an exclusive reservation of its own. The opportunities made available through this legislation will change the lives of our Tribal Members and the trajectory of our Tribe. With reliable electricity, water and housing our people will have opportunities that have never been available to us before. This legislation is more than a settlement of water rights, it is the establishment of an exclusive reservation for a Tribe that will no longer be forced to live like strangers in our own land. We look forward to seeing Congress work to ensure this bill becomes the law of the land,” said Robbin Preston Jr., President of the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe.  

“Tens of thousands of Navajo people in Arizona do not have water in their homes. The infrastructure funded under the bill secures the necessary water supply that will serve these families’ homes.  Without this settlement, our communities will remain disproportionately vulnerable to diseases and development on the Reservation will continue to be restricted by the lack of water infrastructure. Consequently, we are extremely grateful for the introduction of this landmark legislation,” said Navajo Nation Speaker Crystalyne Curley.  

“I am grateful to our sister tribal nations, non-Indian neighbors, and the State of Arizona for putting in the difficult work to make this settlement a reality. Our collective action means a more secure water future for the Hopi Tribe and all of our neighbors in Northern Arizona. I am grateful to Senator Kelly, Senator Sinema, Congressman Ciscomani, Congressman Stanton, and the entire Arizona Delegation for their commitment to making this a reality”, said Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma.  

“This is an historic settlement that is the culmination of years of hard work by the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, San Juan Southern Paiute, the State of Arizona, and the communities of Northern Arizona. I couldn’t be more proud of the parties that have come together or more confident that the Hopi Tribe’s future water needs will be met,” said Vice Chairman Craig Andrews.  

“CAWCD is proud to have played an important role through the many years of negotiations that have culminated in this historic legislation. The settlement will finally bring a high-priority water supply to the Nation, and its benefits will be felt throughout the entire state,” said Brenda Burman, General Manager of Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD).  

“The Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement is a monumental achievement and the product of negotiations spanning almost 30 years.  Salt River Project has participated in the negotiations from their inception.  We enthusiastically support the bills introduced today by Senator Kelly and Congressman Ciscomani, which would approve and fund the NAIWR settlement. The settlement provides the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe with desperately needed water supplies and infrastructure to secure their future.  The settlement also brings certainty to water users throughout northeastern Arizona regarding the allocation of a scarce resource,” said Leslie A. Meyers, Associate General Manager, Water Resources, Salt River Project.  

“This historic Act is the result of many years of negotiation, said John Leech, Jr., Mayor of Show Low. “It will benefit the public and private sectors of Apache and Navajo Counties, as well as the Tribes. Finally, competition among the Tribes and off-reservation communities for scarce water resources will be resolved,” said John Leech, Jr., Mayor of Show Low.  

On behalf of all the ranchers and farmers in Apache and Navajo Counties, we are anxious to end the litigation with the Tribes. This settlement Act will be a lasting benefit to all of us,” said Jackson Brown, sixth generation rancher and farmer from St. Johns, Arizona.