Grijalva Introduces Bill to Resolve Tribal Water Rights Settlements, Bring Clean Water to Indian Country

WASHINGTON – House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today introduced H.R. 8937, to help bring safe, clean, reliable water and water infrastructure to Indian Country by establishing two new subaccounts in the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund.


“Access to safe, clean water in this country should not be a luxury — it is essential to life, and it is a right,” said Ranking Member Grijalva. “But a long line of broken promises from the federal government has denied Indian Country of that right for far too long. The Biden administration has made significant progress in delivering water to tribal communities through the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund that Democrats secured in the Infrastructure Law. But that funding is running out. This legislation will keep the Biden administration’s momentum going and help bring long-awaited water and water infrastructure to Indian Country at last.”

The Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) provided a historic $2.5 billion to fund water rights settlements through the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund. That funding has been critical in resolving the backlog of tribal water rights settlements and infrastructure projects that were negotiated prior to IIJA. So far, $2.4 billion of the $2.5 billion has been allocated. 

H.R. 8937 will establish two new subaccounts for existing and future settlements:

  • Operations, Maintenance, and Repair Subaccount will provide $34 million per fiscal year through 2032 for the Ak Chin Indian Water Rights Settlement Project, the Animas-La Plata Project, the Columbia and Snake River Salmon Recovery Project, and the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.
  • New and Continuing Settlements Subaccount will provide $250 million per fiscal year through 2032 for existing or new water rights settlements.

Supporting Tribes and Organizations

H.R. 8937 is supported by the Yavapai-Apache Nation (letter of support), Fort Belknap Indian Community, Southern Ute Indian Tribe (letter of support), Ak-Chin Indian Community, and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF).

“Reliable access to water remains a challenge in large portions of Indian Country,” said Chairman Robert Miguel of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. “On behalf of the Ak-Chin Community Council, I thank Rep. Grijalva for introducing this vital legislation that will provide critical funding to ensure our Tribal Community and others like us have the water we need to survive and prosper.”

“Congressman Grijalva’s bill builds on the successful bi-partisan infrastructure law to provide critical funding to complete Indian water rights settlements.  Funding is needed to settle litigation and to provide the water we reserved for our tribal homelands in treaties with the United States.  Funding is also needed for crumbling and long-neglected water infrastructure that provides water to our Reservation as well as neighboring towns and irrigators.  Just a few weeks ago, we had another blow-out on the 100-year-old St Mary Project.  Grijalva’s bill will allow us to make needed investments that will sustain our tribes and communities for the next 100 years.” President Jeffery Stiffarm, Fort Belknap Indian Community

Additional Background

The federal government has a legal responsibility to help ensure access to water for federally recognized tribes, but that obligation has often gone unrealized; across the U.S., many Native American communities do not have access to reliable water sources, clean drinking water, or basic water delivery infrastructure. Native American households are 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing.

Tribal water rights settlements help address this issue by legally securing tribes’ water rights and facilitating the construction of water delivery infrastructure. However, these settlements require funding. Currently, there are 39 approved water rights settlements, with a total estimated cost of over $8.5 billion, as well as 22 potential settlements currently being negotiated that will cost several billion dollars more. Many more settlements will need to be negotiated and funded in future years.

Press Contact

Lindsay Gressard