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Monday, August 15, 2022

Gila River Arizona

Gila River Adjudication (In Re: The General Adjudication of All Rights to Use Water in the Gila River System and Source, Superior Court for Maricopa County, W-1 through W-4 (Consolidated)).

The Navajo Nation is a party to this adjudication because it claims state-based water rights for the Big Boquillas Ranch. The Navajo Nation participated in certain interlocutory appeals to the Arizona Supreme Court on various issues of broad legal significance.

Issues No. 4 & 5. In re the General Adjudication of All Rights to Use Water in the Gila River System and Source, 989 P. 2d 739 (Az. Sup. Ct. 1999) (“Gila III”); and the Court held that Federal reserved water rights extend to groundwater as well as surface water and are not subject to prior appropriation under Arizona law. (Issue 4.) The Court also held that holders of Federal reserved rights are entitled to greater protection from groundwater pumping than are water users who hold only state law rights. (Issue 5.)

Issue No. 3. In re the General Adjudication of All Rights to Use Water in the Gila River System and Source, 35 P. 3d 68 (Az. Sup. Ct. 2001) (“Gila V”). The Court held that in determining the amount of water reserved for federal lands:

  1. One purpose of Indian reservations is to provide Native American people with a “permanent homeland and abiding place,” citing Winters v. United States, that is, a livable environment, citing Arizona v. California;
  2. Practicably Irrigable Acreage (PIA) is not the exclusive measure for quantifying water rights on Indian lands; and
  3. Quantity of water for such purpose must satisfy both present and future needs of the reservation as a livable homeland; however, the quantity of water is the minimal amount to meet that need.
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