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Arizona and the Central Arizona Project (CAP), holding Navajo/Hopi water hostage.

• Nikke Alex
S.2109 is the product of a poorly planned settlement. The Nation tends to haphazardly agree to random acts of development without a larger strategic plan or vision of how energy projects will impact communities. This settlement is a case in point. The particular water development projects McCain and Kyl have proposed will benefit select communities, but has no vision about how it will integrate water for the whole Navajo Nation or even most of the Western portion of the reservation. We are forever relinquishing claims to the Lower Colorado River for one-time offer of $350 million in water development projects.

Each of the 110 Chapters are supposed to have a Community Land Use Plan in place. However, Chapters do not have plans that address water usage and sustainable uses of it that guarantees water will be around in the communities many generations from now. When communities and Chapters are talking about economic development, water is hardly ever considered but should be at the forefront of the conversation. Before we settle our water claims, we need to do the hard but necessary work of determining chapter needs and arranging a settlement that addresses these.

It is crucial now more than ever for communities to begin crafting Water Plans and Sustainability Plans. But within S.2109, we do not have an idea about how “wet” water made available through these projects will be used. There is an allusion to home use for people who live in the communities of Leupp, Dilkon, and Ganado. But, is industrial-scale residential piping along these lines even the most pressing water issue for the Navajo Nation? How will building this infrastructure serve community members outside of these immediate areas? Will it guarantee water for livestock? Commercial use? Future industry? These are the questions that need to be addressed and understood before any settlement is made.

Perhaps piping at this scale is not an appropriate solution for Navajo communities. It might work for small Arizona towns, but Navajos live differently. There does not seem to be a plan about how these specific piping projects fit into a larger vision of the Navajo Nation 10, 20, 30, or 40 years down the road. But such a plan is absolutely necessary, if we are going to forever waive our claims to the Lower Colorado River.


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