On October 19, the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association and 26 community ditches filed an Answer, Objections and Counterclaim against the Navajo Nation, the U.S. and the State Engineer, asking the court to reject the proposed Navajo agreement. To read a highlighted copy of the counterclaim, you can click here.
The Community Ditch Defendants say that the court must reject the proposed agreement because it is unfair and contrary to state and federal laws. The agreement would give the Navajos 606,000 acre-feet of diversion, which is six times as much water as the City of Albuquerque, and twice as much as the City of Phoenix. This is far more than the Navajos need for the Reservation in New Mexico. If the Navajos get all this water, they can sell it to California, Arizona, Utah, or Nevada.
KEY POINTS IN COUNTERCLAIM
BY THE COMMUNITY DITCHES
● The court should order the U.S. and the State Engineer to operate the river to provide sufficient “wet” water to satisfy the water rights of the community ditches.
● The Navajos are entitled to a substantial amount of water, but nothing remotely approaching 606,000 acre-feet. That is six times the amount supplied to the City of Albuquerque, and twice the amount for the City of Phoenix.
● According to the 2010 Census, only 42,000 Native Americans live on the Reservation in New Mexico. They do not need 606,000 acre-feet, and they cannot put that much water to beneficial use on the Reservation in New Mexico.
● If the court were to award that much water, the Navajos could export the water to Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. If the Navajos simply leave the water in the river, it flows down to Lake Meade (Las Vegas), the Central Arizona Project (Phoenix and Tucson), and the Southern California Aqueduct (Los Angeles and Beverly Hills).
● The proposed water deal signed by Bill Richardson and the Navajos is illegal. It violates the New Mexico Constitution, which states that the waters in New Mexico belong to the public through prior appropriation and beneficial use. The United States approved and agreed to these laws as part of the process whereby New Mexico was admitted to the Union as a State, in 1912. So Native Americans in New Mexico must prove their water claims based on prior appropriation and beneficial use, just like everybody else.
● NIIP is a waste of water, not a beneficial use. Decades of actual experience have proved that NIIP is not “practicably irrigable acreage” (PIA).
● The proposed Richardson-Navajo deal violates the Colorado River Compact (1922) and the Upper Basin Compact (1948).
● The Richardson-Navajo agreement is null and void, because Governor Richardson had no legal authority to sign it. No Governor has authority to sign away water rights which belong to the public, not to the government.
● The court should reject the proposed agreement, and order the U.S. and the Navajo Tribe to begin good faith negotiations with the community ditches and other water users, towards a comprehensive and fair settlement.