News Release Archive

Interior Department and Navajo Nation to Develop Plan for Contingency Water Supplies for Navajo Farms

Media Contact: Marlon Duke, 801-524-3774, mduke@usbr.gov

For Release: July 13, 2016

SHIPROCK, N.M. – U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael L. Connor, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López and senior Navajo Nation officials met at the Navajo Shiprock Chapter House today and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) intended to evaluate emergency contingency water supplies for Navajo farms in northern New Mexico. This planning effort will identify critical system components and emergency water supplies in case the San Juan River is temporarily deemed unfit for irrigation in the future.

Interior has committed Bureau of Reclamation Fiscal Year 2016 financial assistance to fund a study to identify alternative contingency water supplies and operations plans. This effort will include development of parameters for the scope of study, identification of issues and factors to be considered in the evaluation of alternatives, and evaluation of selected alternatives to determine the most practical and attainable solutions.

“Water is especially important to Native American culture, economic security, and quality of life, and we at the Department are committed to working with our tribal partners to find meaningful solutions to the water challenges facing these Nations,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “This MOU builds on years of cooperation between the Navajo Nation and the Department of the Interior to evaluate alternatives to offset impacts to farmers and crops in the event of water supply shortages and other emergencies.”

“We support the efforts of the Department of the Interior in making sure that Navajo farmers will continue to have a consistent, dependable water supply in times of water shortage or other water emergencies,” said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. “This agreement will help to put a plan in place, in case of any emergency, so that Navajo area farms will continue to receive water.”

Today’s MOU reaffirms and reinforces commitments initially made in 2000, when the Bureau of Reclamation and the Navajo Nation signed an MOU to establish a long-term partnership in support of the Navajo Nation’s efforts to develop and protect its water resources. In November 2015, in the spirit of that partnership, Reclamation received a request from the three Navajo Nation Chapter Farm Boards that rely on irrigation water from the Hogback Canal to support a study to find and evaluate options for a secondary water source for the canal, in case water quality in the San Juan River again falls below acceptable standards.

“The Bureau of Reclamation supports this Memorandum of Understanding and will work with the Navajo Nation and the Shiprock, Tse Daa K’aan, and Gadii’ahi chapter farm boards to initiate and complete this study,” Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López said. “Actions such as these help assure the sustainability and viability of these farms.”

Efforts associated with this study began with an information gathering session that was conducted by Reclamation with last week at the Gadii’ahi Chapter house. A detailed schedule will be developed as the scope of the study is further refined.

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