Hopi and Navajo Leaders Try to Break Impasse in LCR Water Settlement

Jun 9, 2017

The Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe have fought in court for nearly four decades over water rights to the Little Colorado River. The tribes recently brought in a mediator after renewed negotiations reached an impasse. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

The 340-mile-long Little Colorado River is one the Colorado River's largest tributaries. There are nearly 2,000 claims to its water including the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, the federal government, the cities of Flagstaff, Winslow and Holbrook, and farmers and ranchers in the area.
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The Navajo and Hopi each claim priority water rights to the LCR, but have been unable to agree on the amounts to which they’re entitled. Arizona Senator John McCain arranged a meeting between tribal leaders and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution to break the deadlock. The institute will offer recommendations on how to move forward.

Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie says the tribe will argue for as much water as possible from the LCR.

"This particular water settlement is important and key and significant simply because we’re talking about the future, and the growth of our community, the growth of our population, expansion of economic development, and considering that this is going to be a permanent homeland," he says.

Honanie didn’t give specifics about the negotiations. But he says the Hopi Tribe will eventually have to tap off-reservation water sources to meet its needs.

There are nearly 2,000 other claims to the LCR, including the cities of Flagstaff and Winslow, the federal government, and area farmers and ranchers.