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Secretary of the Interior, Utah governor join Navajo Nation president to sign federal water rights agreement

Tags: Civility and Service, Future Prosperity, Rural, Rural Matters

MONUMENT VALLEY (May 27, 2022) – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed a federal reserved water rights settlement agreement in the picturesque Monument Valley. This agreement, 18 years in the making, recognizes and protects the reserved water rights of the Navajo Nation and will help bring clean drinking water to the Navajo people in Utah. 

“Today we celebrate the opportunity to bring drinking water infrastructure to the Navajo Nation and water certainty for Utah, the fastest growing state in the country,” said Gov. Cox. “Sometimes the most important work done by government is done quietly on issues that don’t sound very exciting but which make a big difference in the lives of people. This is one of those times. I’m proud of the staff and leaders who have worked diligently and in good faith for many years to make this happen.”

The settlement recognizes a reserved water right of 81,500 acre-feet for current and future water use within the Navajo Nation in Utah. The federal government will pay the Navajo Nation more than $210 million and the state of Utah will contribute $8 million toward water projects on the Navajo Nation.

“Utah leaders have long-prioritized finding a solution to bring running water and wastewater facilities to the Utah portion of Navajo Nation, including ensuring its citizens have proper water infrastructure, and I picked up that torch when I came to the Senate by reintroducing the Utah Navajo Water Rights Settlement Act,” Sen. Romney said. “I was proud to have helped negotiate the bipartisan infrastructure bill to make sure Utah would have a seat at the table, and make good on the longstanding promise by the federal government to the Navajo Nation in Utah. Today is possible thanks to the leadership of Gov. Herbert, Congressman Bishop, Sen. Hatch, State Sen. David Hinkins, and the San Juan County commissioners who have been strong advocates of this project. Thank you to everyone who has carried the baton over the years in order to get this legislation across the finish line today—this is a monumental occasion.”

“While there are no easy answers to the issue of water in the West, I am emboldened by the spirit of collaboration that made this moment possible,” Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said. “This historic agreement will bring clean drinking water to the Navajo people in Utah, and I’m grateful for all of our partners who tackle tough issues with an eye toward solutions.”

Gov. Cox, Secretary Haaland, President Nez, Lt. Gov. Henderson and Sen. Romney addressed the crowd of staffers and reporters gathered at the Navajo Nation Welcome Center in Monument Valley. 

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