On Native water

Current public attention to efforts by the Standing Rock Sioux to protect their water supply by blocking construction of an oil pipeline has drawn attention to Native water rights issues. Anne Strainchamps at Wisconsin Public Radio’s To The Best of Our Knowledge had me on last week to talk about the broader issues.

One of my book’s key arguments involves a fundamental shortcoming of the rest of my book’s key argument – the question of who gets left out of the sometimes formal and sometimes informal governance structures through which we are sorting out our water management and allocation.

In particular, I argue, Native communities have been repeatedly left out of decision making. My example is the Navajo Nation, but this generalizes:

By virtue of having been here rst, the Navajo are, on paper, among the most water-rich people in the region. But if, as Smith said, water is gold out here, the Navajo Nation has had a hard time cashing in. For decades, the water-management community has paid lip service to honoring an obligation to the Navajo, but in practice the big, expensive, federally subsidized plumbing has channeled the water elsewhere.

I was, frankly, nervous going into the interview for two reasons. First, TTBOOK is widely syndicated – big audience – jitters. More importantly, I’m not Native. But I think it went well.