An historic agreement was signed on Tuesday, guaranteeing water rights for the White Mountain Apache Tribe of Arizona. The agreement will also provide funding for infrastructure to deliver clean drinking water to the Reservation, as well as water security for the City of Phoenix and other downstream water users.
White Mountain Apache Chairman Ronnie Lupe and officials from the Tribe and the State of Arizona, joined Representative Ann Kirkpatrick and former Senator Jon Kyl at the signing.
“On behalf of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, we thank Secretary Jewell, the Federal Negotiation Team, Governor Brewer, Salt River Project officials, the Phoenix Valley cities and irrigation districts, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Show Low, and our water rights team and attorney – with special thanks to former Senator Jon Kyl and Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick for helping us achieve a dignified and honorable quantification of our water rights,” said Chairman Lupe, who signed the agreement on behalf of the Tribe.
The White Mountain Apache Reservation includes more than 1.6 million acres in the headwaters of the Salt River basin in Arizona. The agreement resolves the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s claims to both the Gila and the Little Colorado Rivers in Arizona. The authorizing legislation includes substantial benefits for the Tribe, including funding of more than $200 million for the planning, design, construction, and operation and maintenance of the WMAT Rural Water System and an additional authorization for $78.5 million for a Settlement Fund for fish production, rehabilitation of recreational lakes, and other projects that will benefit of the Tribe.
The rural drinking water system will extend from the town of Whiteriver in the east to the town of Cibecue on the west side of the Reservation. In addition, the agreement acknowledges the Tribe’s interest in and management of other valuable water and water-dependent resources on the Reservation such as lakes, springs and water- dependent fish and wildlife. This agreement establishes a firm foundation for improved irrigation water delivery on Reservation lands.
The agreement is significant to the City of Phoenix and surrounding municipalities because the Salt River Water Project is dependent on the Tribe’s senior claims to the water.