After more than 15 years of work, the U.S. Senate has approved the settlement of water rights for the Navajo Nation in Utah. The deal, which still must be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, finalizes the tribe’s right to 81,500 acre-feet of water from the Upper Colorado River, according to this report in the Utah Daily Herald.
In addition to the settlement, the bill also authorizes $210 million in federal funding to help build new drinking water delivery and wastewater systems for Utah Navajo communities. Roughly one-third of tribal communities there lack access to clean drinking water, a fact that has made it difficult to combat COVID-19. The Navajo Nation, which spans southeastern Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, has a per capita infection rate that tops those in New York City and New Jersey.
Under the terms of the agreement, the state of Utah will be required to pay $8 million over three years to help finance the deal, money it has already set aside.