The Supreme Court on Thursday sided with multiple states and water districts, backed by the federal government, over the Navajo Nation in a dispute over whether the government’s duty to provide a “permanent home” for the tribe under two 19th-century treaties included protecting, or even considering, the tribe’s access to water from the lower portion of the Colorado River. The byzantine system of allocating water from the Colorado River relied on unrealistic assumptions from the outset, and water shortages have become more acute as climate change has worsened droughts across the region.
“Where do the Navajo go from here?” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in his dissent. “To date, their efforts to find out what water rights the United States holds for them have produced an experience familiar to any American who has spent time at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Navajo have waited patiently for someone, anyone, to help them, only to be told (repeatedly) that they have been standing in the wrong line and must try another.” (AP, Indian Country Today, E&E News, Washington Post $, E&E News, NBC, Politico Pro $; Climate Signals background: Western megadrought)