Manataka American Indian Council





March 2010


Water Wars Begin...




"Water is Life and Life is Water"


Indian Country Goes Without Water

Wasteful Government Policies Open To Greed


The Southwest is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history while federal and state politicians enact policies that deprive the general public and especially American Indian people from the essence of life -- water.


Recognizing the importance of enforcing water rights on reservations, the National Congress of American Indians passed a resolution to oppose the controversial water pumping project in Nevada. In June, 2008 NCAI acted on the requests of Nevada tribes who say the pumping will dry up their water sources.


According to an article in the Salt Lake City Desert News about the NCAI action, "...access to clean drinking and irrigation water is expected to become a major issue in the near future all over the world. It is already a serious problem in many locations, and California declared a drought. Cities in the arid American west are already looking for more water, and Nevada is proposing a pumping project to help Las Vegas." 


Water scarcity grows in urgency in many regions as population growth, climate change, pollution, lack of investment, and management failures restrict the amount of water available relative to demand.   To underscore the critical water problem for American Indians, the following two articles were submitted by



Water Running on Empty - Unlike global warming, the crisis is right here, right now.
[Environmental, Health and Safety News, April 9, 2009]


Much of the world already knows that it is possible to live without oil, but that it is impossible to live without water.  Al Jazeera asks how long it will be before the US is running on empty.  That reality is dawning upon people across the US as the country faces unprecedented water shortages.

Water-challenged Native Americans in Orne, Tennessee, are forced to line up for daily water truck deliveries after their local water source dried up.

On the Texas side of the Rio Grande Basin there are Americans forced to live without running water just like their Mexican counterparts across the border.

Along Oregon's Klamath river, local farmers and Native American fishermen have been fighting over what they consider to be their birth right to precious water allocations.

It is not just rural Americans facing chronic water shortage; the residents of Atlanta came within 90 days of running out of water last summer.

Many economists and climatologists believe profligate lifestyles and denial of the real value of water as a precious and diminishing resource are leading the US into a crisis far greater than its dependency on foreign oil.

Unlike global warming, the crisis is right here, right now. Peter Gleick, one of the country's leading water analysts, sets the factual context for the US water crisis from overpopulated desert areas in the Southwest, to the unchecked depletion of natural aquifers throughout the Midwest.

Pollution has made 40 per cent of the country's rivers and lakes unsafe to swim in, yet alone drink from.

Americans are often their worst enemy in the fight to maintain their traditional lifestyles which so depend on a diminished natural resource.

For example, a large hamburger takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce while a round of golf costs approximately 4,000 gallons of water.

Leaving the tap on while brushing your teeth or shaving uses an estimated 350 gallons, which is the daily per capita consumption of water in most African countries.

While the US is making billions of dollars by feeding the rest of the world, they are also exporting a third of their water supplies every year with the flow of "virtual water" to overseas markets in the form of food exports."





"Water Wars Out West: Keep What You Catch!"
By Jeff Brady-National Public Radio, June 1, 2009

The West remains one of the fastest growing regions of the country, and that continues to put pressure on scarce water supplies.

So, Colorado recently made it legal for some homeowners to capture and collect the raindrops and snowflakes that fall on their own roofs. That had been considered stealing because the water would flow into a stream or aquifer, where it belonged to someone else; Utah and Washington state have similar bans.

The change in Colorado may seem minor, but this could signal the beginning of a water-law revolution.

Water law in the West is different than in the East. In the West, there's essentially a long line for water rights; those who signed up for rights first are in front. And in some cases around the West, Native Americans are near the front of the line because they've lived there for so long.

For five years, Karl Hanzel "took cuts" in that line because he illegally collected water from the snow that fell on his home outside Boulder, Colo.

"I struggle to understand the argument for these laws. It doesn't really make sense to me," says Hanzel. "The water that I'm detaining here, I'm not exporting it to Mars … We have a leach field; we water the garden; that water is still returned to the earth … We're just holding some of it for awhile."

Colorado takes this sort of illegal harvesting of precipitation seriously. If caught, Hanzel could have faced fines of up to $500 a day. Luckily for him, a law recently passed legalizes his collection system. It's a narrow exception to the ban for people who would have to dig a well or have water trucked in.

But in Washington state, Tim Pope is still breaking the law. He owns Northwest Water Source, a business that has installed about 200 rainwater collectors in the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. Pope says state regulators tend to look the other way.

He's also president of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, and he's on a mission to get rid of the bans.

"Western water-rights laws were done in the 1800s, and they need some serious overhaul," says Pope. He says the first-in-line basis is inefficient.

"It needs to be based on need — it needs to be based on proper use of water. We don't need to be using drinking water to wash cars and water lawns and gardens and flush toilets," he says.

Those near the front of the line disagree. Western tribes guard their historic water rights, as do municipalities like Denver.

"You have a basic foundation for how water is owned and administered in Colorado, and a wholesale change — to say, 'Oh yeah, take all the water you want off your roof,' — is actually a fundamental change in that," says Chips Barry, general manager at Denver Water.

Barry says he's not upset by Colorado's recent exception to rainwater harvesting — the effect on senior water-rights holders will be minimal. But he says if the practice were to become widespread, that could unwind a complicated system that has long determined who gets the limited water available.

There seems to be little risk that such a wholesale change will happen anytime soon. Recent efforts in Washington and Utah to get even minor exceptions to the ban on rainwater harvesting failed.



The Hopi Paatuwaqatsi Run -- Water is Life

Bucky Preston, founder of the Paatuwaqatsi Run, an annual event in Hopi country that features a 30-mile course through the high desert says "... water is being abused and is depleting. In some places, it is gone and I want to bring awareness to the people.”  The Paatuwaqatsi Run, since its inception, is based on these cultural values to remind the Hopi community of these teachings. The run also invites other cultures to learn from this and share their values about life enrichment and the role that water and running plays in their lives.  Everything at Hopi involves water—water is life.


The Native American Water Association
A national non-profit, 501 (c) (6) organization founded to provide tribal water and wastewater operators, managers, utility commissions and tribal leadership with continued training and technical assistance in their goals to: Strengthen tribal sovereignty and Self-determination and protect health and environment in Indian Country.

Native American Water Association
1662 Highway 395, Suite 212
Minden, NV 89423

(775) 782-6636 - 1(877) 888-NAWA
Fax: 1 (775) 782-1021





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