WASHINGTON – The federal government and White Mountain Apache tribe signed a “historic” water-rights agreement Tuesday that the two sides said will guarantee water for the tribe and benefit Phoenix water users as well.
The deal ends decades of legal wrangling over rights to water from the Little Colorado and Gila rivers by allocating about 23,000 acre-feet of water from the Central Arizona Project to the tribe each year.
It also includes $200 million for construction of a new water system for the tribe and an additional $78.5 million for fish production, lakes, irrigation and other water projects.
By resolving questions over control of water in the Salt River basin, the deal will also ensure the tribe and residents of Phoenix have a water supply for the “next 100 years,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
“This opens a new chapter in tribal water-rights,” Jewell said at a signing ceremony in Washington with officials from the tribe.
White Mountain Apache Chairman Ronnie Lupe praised the work of those who helped bring about the deal.
“Your work will make a dramatic difference for the people in my community,” he said to Jewell. “No longer will black water from dirty wells come from the faucet.”