Senate Passes Romney Bill to Settle Water Rights for Navajo Nation in Utah

Legislation Now Awaits Passage by the House

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) released the following statement after the Senate passed the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act, his legislation to settle a decades-long negotiation among the Navajo Nation, federal government, and the State of Utah over water rights for Utah Navajos. The legislation, led by Congressmen Rob Bishop (R-UT) and John Curtis (R-UT), awaits passage by the House of Representatives.

“This legislation has been a very long time in the making, and I am proud that the Senate has come together to see it through the finish line,” Senator Romney said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the Navajo Nation in our state, and the shortage of running water in nearly half of homes is contributing to the spread. With this legislation, we will be able to provide access to water and wastewater facilities for the Navajo Nation and also provide the long-needed water infrastructure for its citizens. I urge my House colleagues to pass this without delay so we can keep the longstanding promise by the federal government to the Navajo Nation in Utah.”

“I’m thrilled to see the Utah Navajo Water Rights Settlement Act pass the U.S. Senate,” Governor Gary Herbert said. “This agreement is the result of more than 15 years of good faith work between Utah leaders, the U.S. Department of Interior, and the Navajo Nation. It will create clean drinking water projects for our Navajo friends and certainty for Utah’s future water needs. My sincere thanks to Senator Romney and President Nez for their great work. I look forward to seeing it considered soon by the House of Representatives.”

“Providing clean water for the Navajo people is a challenging task and we have worked with our friends in Congress and across the country to move this important measure forward,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. “As the Navajo Nation continues to struggle to address COVID-19, we welcome the passage by the United States Senate of the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act, which would provide desperately needed funding for clean drinking water to our members.

“On behalf of the Navajo Nation, I would like to thank Senator Romney for his leadership in advancing the bill through the Senate,” President Nez continued. “I would also like to thank Senators McSally and Udall for their crucial work with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in expediting the bill’s passage as well as Senator Sinema for her strong support of the legislation. Because of the drinking water crisis on the Navajo Reservation, which COVID-19 has compounded, we ask our friends in the House to pass the legislation without delay.”

The Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act:

  • Settles all current and future claims by the Navajo Nation for water rights within Utah, thus precluding costly future litigation for all parties;
  • Provides the Navajo Nation with the right to deplete 81,500 acre-feet of water per year from Utah’s Colorado River Basin apportionment;
  • Authorizes $210 million in funding for water infrastructure on Utah portion of Navajo Nation to access the water, which will help provide clean drinking water; and
  • Requires the State of Utah to contribute $8 million in funding towards the settlement, which has been approved.