Luján, Heinrich Applaud the Passage of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project Amendments Act Out of Committee
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) applauded the passage of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project Amendments Act, as amended, out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, to amend an existing water rights settlement enacted for the Navajo Nation. Without further authorization from Congress, all work on the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project (Project) will come to a halt after December 31, 2024 due to statutory deadlines and resource caps.
The Project was first authorized by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which settled the Navajo Nation’s water rights in San Juan Basin of New Mexico to bring piped water to nearly a quarter million people by the year 2040. On the Navajo Nation, approximately 15,500 Tribal households live without running water, including nearly 6,000 in New Mexico. The Project will help to close this acute water access gap, providing for the permanent homeland that Congress promised when it signed its 1868 Treaty with the Navajo Nation. Upon completion, the Project will deliver water from the San Juan River to roughly 43 Chapters on the eastern Navajo Nation, the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and the City of Gallup, which currently rely on a rapidly depleting groundwater supply of poor quality.
“I’m proud to applaud the passage of my legislation out of Committee to ensure the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache Nation, and City of Gallup in New Mexico have access to safe, clean, and reliable water,” said Senator Luján. “Failure to pass this legislation will not only jeopardize water security for hundreds of thousands throughout the region, but would endanger completion of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project as part of the Navajo Nation’s water rights settlement in the San Juan River Basin. That’s why I’m proud to have worked on this legislation, including an amendment that has received support from all water settlement parties and members in committee. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this legislation into law before the end of 2024 to ensure the Project can be completed to bring a sustainable, clean source of water to the Navajo Nation and community users throughout New Mexico and portions of Arizona by 2029.”
“This committee vote was an important step forward for the communities in northwest New Mexico, the Navajo Nation, and the Jicarilla Apache Nation who deserve long-term water security and clean drinking water,” said Senator Heinrich. “We have made substantial down payments toward completing the Navajo Gallup Water Supply Project by delivering more than $300 million over the last two years from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. But it’s clear that we must extend the project timeline, make more funding available, and reduce the cost burden on local governments and communities. I am committed to delivering these resources that our communities deserve.”
The amended legislation makes several important changes to current law under the Navajo-San Juan River Water Rights Settlement Act:
- Increases the Project funding authorization to match updated construction costs.
- Extends the Project timeline beyond 2024 to 2029 to provide additional time for completion.
- Establishes trust funds for operations and maintenance costs for the Navajo Nation and the Jicarilla Apache Nation once Project construction is complete.
- Incorporates certain cost-saving measures, such as renewable energy and San Juan Generating Station water storage facilities.
- Allows the Project to expand its service area to reach Navajo communities without running water in Lupton, AZ.
- Permits Project facilities to treat, store, and convey 2,000 acre-feet-per-year of non-Project water to Utah through an Indian Health Service (IHS) Sweetwater pipeline that runs through New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, which is needed for successful implementation of the as part of the Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement Act of 2020, provided Project costs and timelines are not affected. Construction on the Sweetwater pipeline is mostly complete, and funded by the IHS as part of the $3.5 billion provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
- The Navajo Nation, State of New Mexico, Jicarilla Apache Nation, and the City of Gallup support the legislation.