From the morning paper, a look at money for the a Navajo Nation water project in the Indian water rights settlement bill the president signed last week:
A century of federal investment in dams and canals was built to serve cities and farms — “a long tradition in water politics in which states receive federal largess to help them solve local water problems,” in the words of University of Utah political scientist Dan McCool.
But the nation’s federally subsidized water development projects over the last century frequently bypassed Indian Country.
Over the 20th century, the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions ruled that Indians were legally entitled to some of the highest priority water rights, enough to irrigate agricultural lands on their reservations, essentially first in line for scarce water ahead of the non-Indian farm and cities that came later.
But, as McCool documented in his book “Commanding the Waters,” native communities lacked political clout, and non-Indians ended up with the majority of the west’s water development money.
Indians were left behind. “They were just left without any means to use their water supply,” said Mike Connor, head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.