Members of the Larson family, who have no running water in their home, collect water from a distribution point in the Navajo Nation town of Thoreau in New Mexico on May 22, 2020.

The Supreme Court Deals a Blow to the Navajo Nation’s Water Rights Claim

The decision could reverberate along the Colorado River Basin where 30 tribal nations rely on the river’s water supply.

By Lyric Aquino , GRIST Published June 23, 2023

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This story was originally published by Grist. Sign up for Grist’s weekly newsletter here.

In a major blow to the Navajo Nation, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the federal government had no obligation to supply water to the tribe.

In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that water security for the Nation did not fall to the judiciary branch, but rather Congress and the President.

“The burden now is on tribal nations to advocate for themselves and intervene whenever water rights are an issue,” said Morgan Saunders, a staff attorney in the Washington D.C. office of the Native American Rights Fund.

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