The Biden administration will use $1.7 billion from the recently enacted federal infrastructure bill to fund sixteen tribal water rights settlements, according to U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The money will ensure that tribes get access to water they’ve been promised but have been unable to use because of a lack of funding for infrastructure to store and move it.
“I am grateful that tribes, some of whom have been waiting for this funding for decades, are finally getting the resources they are owed,” Haaland said in a statement during a trip to Arizona, where she announced the funding.
Access to reliable, clean water and basic sanitation facilities on tribal lands remains a challenge for hundreds of thousands of people. The funding for settlements is part of about $11 billion from the infrastructure law headed to Indian Country to expand broadband coverage, fix roads, and provide basic needs like running water.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1908 that tribes have rights to as much water as they need to establish a permanent homeland, and those rights stretch back at least as long as any given reservation has existed.