Navajo Nation Wins At 9th Circuit In Water Rights Case

Published: Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 3:52pm
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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sent a nearly 20-year-old water rights lawsuit by the Navajo Nation back to a federal courtroom in Arizona, where the case has been thrown out twice before.

The Navajo Nation sued the federal government in 2003 for allegedly defaulting on a responsibility to protect enough Colorado River water for the tribe in Arizona.

The case was thrown out, revived by the 9th Circuit, and sent back to Arizona. Then a district judge dismissed it again. Their reason was only the Supreme Court could decide the case.

Now the 9th Circuit says the decision was wrong because the Navajo Nation did not ask for it’s Colorado River water to be quantified. Instead their legal challenge was whether the U.S. followed treaties and case law.

The panel wrote that the lawsuit is too young to say if the latter gives the Navajo Nation rights to the mainstream of the Colorado River or other water bodies.