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Latest: Four pueblos win out in protracted water fight

A bitter battle between Native and non-Native water users ends in settlement.

 

BACKSTORY
In 1966, the state of New Mexico filed a lawsuit to untangle water rights in the Pojoaque River Basin north of Santa Fe. Four tribal communities and hundreds of Hispanic and Anglo landowners were caught in a confusing web of Native, state and federal rules. The Aamodt case — named for the first of the more than 1,000 defendants — churned through the courts for decades (“Pueblo water battle nears its end,” HCN, 10/30/06).

FOLLOWUP
In mid-July, a federal judge finally brought the 51-year adjudication to an end. The 2006 settlement agreement gives high-priority water rights to the Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso and Tesuque pueblos. It also calls for a $260 million regional system that will send Rio Grande water to the pueblos and non-Indian users. Opponents who dispute tribal rights may still appeal, but Arianne Singer, one of the state’s lawyers, told the Albuquerque Journal, “We worked together with all the other major players and other governments to solve a problem.”