Reservation Water Rights Solution
Our solution to conflicts over Native American Reservation water rights centers around two main ideas. First, we will allocate a specific amount of water per person to be provided at no cost. Secondly, we will plan on providing funding for water related projects addressing water distribution and water quality problems.
We plan on allocating 150 liters per person per day free of cost to Native Americans living on reservations. Any additional water may be bought through water companies participating in the cap and trade system at market price. We will determine the amount of water each reservation will receive based on US Census. Population numbers will be re-evaluated every five years with the US census.
The current population of Native Americans living on the largest reservations in the southwest is around 808,163 people (Winters v. United States - Further Readings. Net Industries, 2008). With this new plan implemented, the US will be supplying approximately 44.2 billion liters per year to all the reservations in the southwest, distributed by population. While this amount of water may seem large and unattainable, to put it into perspective, it is approximately 3% of the annual public water supply withdrawals in Arizona (approximately 4 billion liters per day).
The 150 liters per capita per day is higher than the 100 L/capita/day that we set as the baseline for minimum daily consumption for the rest of the United States. We decided upon this higher number because this number will include the amount of water provided for irrigation. While this will not supply 100% of their irrigation needs, it will help reduce the cost of irrigation. All additional water needed for irrigation above the 150 L allotment must be bought at market price.
We have decided to provide 150 L/capita/day of water to reservations at no charge because reservations are a semi-autonomous region. Because of reservations' semi-autonomous status, we believe they are entitled to a certain proportion of the United States water supply at no cost. We decided to set a specific number, rather than a vague allowance, because one of the main problems with current policies is lack of a defined guaranteed water amount. For more information about current policies, click here.
Estimated currently irrigated land in Native American Reservations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah is 254,614 acres. However, the total potentially irrigated land on reservations in these states is roughly 6,953,842 acres (Snyder and Andersen, 56). This land can continue to be irrigated using a portion of the 150 liters per capita per day. The specific proportion depends on how much of the 150 L allotment is used for domestic and other purposes. If we estimate that 100 L/person/day will be used for domestic purposes, the same as our water usage goals for the rest of the United States, then the extra 50 L/person/day can go towards agriculture. Combined, all of this water can irrigate approximately 9842 acres per year of hay, which requires 3.7 Mega liters/Hectare of water, or 1.5 million liters per acre (US Census of Agriculture, 2002), (Australian Bureau of Statistics). Thus the 150 L/person/year will not be enough to fully irrigate all irrigable reservation land. Native Americans will have to enter the cap-and-trade system to receive additional water at market price. To offset these high costs of water, Native Americans will be eligible, just like all others living in the United States, for the water stamp program, discussed further in the economic solution section.
The water guaranteed to Native American reservations will be supplied initially through their current water distribution and decontamination systems. However overtime, each year we will supply funding to Native American reservations to implement water related projects. The projects can include, but are not limited to, water distribution systems and decontamination facilities. The funding for these projects will come from the cap-and-trade system.
One of the main problems with current efforts to build distribution and decontamination facilities is lack of money. However, with our new cap-and-trade system, each year, money will be supplied to fund projects for a few reservations. Reservations will receive funding based on both population and on need. Therefore, the reservation with the largest population and poorest quality of water will receive funding first.
Projects like these are already being implemented. For example, at the Pine Ridge Reservation, a central underground pipeline is already being implemented. This pipeline will supply water directly to individuals' homes. It is estimated to cost over $450 million (Hunter, 2008). In addition, on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana a central treatment facility and collection plant is being built to service the surrounding communities. This project is being funded jointly by EPA grants and the Blackfeet tribe (EPA, 2007). Another example of decontamination and distribution projects is in the Fort Apache Indian reservation where they built a 13-mile water transmission line. The cost of this project is was funded by numerous grants including one from the EPA and one from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (EPA, 2007). These projects demonstrate the success achieved, when money is available, of decontamination and distribution projects in Native American reservations. Along with pipelines and central treatment systems, other methods of decontamination and conservation outlined in our other solution sections will be encouraged.
With the implementation of the 150 liters per capita per day plan, we hope to make drinking water and a limited amount of irrigation water affordable to all living on Native American Reservations. With the yearly monetary allocations for water projects, we hope to increase water distribution efficiency and decrease the amount of contaminated water. This will minimize the number of health problems associated with unclean drinking water. While Native American living on reservations will have to enter the cap-and-trade system to procure all their current irrigating needs, the water that they receive will be of a higher quality, and thus Native Americans will not have to worry about health issues stemming from contaminated water. Overall, we aim to provide a sufficient amount of clean and affordable water for Native American use.