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Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources


Mission Statement

Responsibility to manage the Navajo Nation water resources for the benefit of present and future generations to sustain long term socio-economic development while protecting the nation’s sovereignty over its water. To look forward, beyond today, to anticipate ways to advance the mission and continue to adapt the mission in response to changing opportunities, keeping the Department at the forefront of water industry developments.



Stewardship of Navajo Nation’s water resources is one of the primary concerns The intent is to promote the management, development, and beneficial use of the Nation’s water resources to secure maximum economic future, social prosperity, the sustainability of the rural communities, balance the water needs for present and future generations and to enhance the quality of life for the Navajo Nation members.


About DWR - Executive Summary


The Navajo Nation encompasses more than 27,000 square miles in the Southwest within portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. According to the US Census 2010, the on reservation population is 173,667 and the total Navajo population is 332,129.

The southwest region of the United States has been experiencing a drought since 1999 and is expected to continue for many more years. Climate change in the Southwest will continue to impact water resources problems. The USGS Disaster Risk Assessment Study concluded that a long-term drying trend and decreasing snowpack, superimposed on the regional drought cycles, will magnify water-related impacts in Navajo Nation and leave the Navajo people increasingly vulnerable (GAR 2011).

Water has been the focus of aggressive research and planning by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River Basin States and other agencies. Approximately thirty percent of the Navajo Nation population does not have access to clean reliable drinking water. In addition, many improvements are needed for other areas of water use including water for irrigation, livestock, commercial, businesses, health care, schools and other facilities.

The lack of infrastructure, the lack of economic development and the sustained poverty are closely connected. Throughout the arid southwest, and especially on the Navajo Nation, reliable water supplies are essential for starting and sustaining economic development. Water development projects will provide Navajo Nation communities the ability to plan and provide for current needs, future economic growth, and more reliable water supplies. These projects need to keep progressing due to the ongoing drought, water rights settlement opportunities, the need for basic infrastructure development and economic development.

The Department of Water Resources developed a Drought Contingency Plan (2003) to improve the understanding of future drought impacts. In 1996 the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources (NNDWR) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) completed the Drought Contingency Planning Study Phase I Plan (Phase I Study, NNDWR, 1996). That report compiled much of the information which was later incorporated into the Water Resources Development Strategy for the Navajo Nation (NNDWR, 2000).

One of the recommendations from the Phase I Study was that, although the Navajo Nation had drafted several components for a drought plan, it still needed a more comprehensive and effective contingency plan. That recommendation has resulted in the Navajo Nation Drought Report 2002 (Drought Report). The Phase I Study and the Drought Report were used to prepare this Navajo Nation Response Contingency Plan 2002 (Contingency Plan).

This Drought Contingency Plan is a collaboration between Reclamation, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Navajo Division of Natural Resources (DNR), and the NDEM. To develop this plan the NNDWR met with: 1) NDEM, 2) DNR Departments, 3) Division of Economic Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program and Local Governance Support Center, 4) Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, and 5) Navajo Environmental Protection Administration.

The Department of Water Resources developed a Water Development Strategy Document to address reservation-wide water development needs. In particular, the Department works closely with Navajo Area Indian Health Service and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to plan for short, mid, and long-term potable water infrastructure needs. The coordination for water development involves funding from local, state and federal agencies. The Water Management Branch coordinates many funding agreements for planning, design and construction for water projects.


The broad objectives of the Navajo Nation Drought Contingency Plan are to:

  • Provide an effective and systematic means of assessing drought conditions
  • Develop mitigation actions and programs to reduce risk in advance of drought
  • Develop response options that minimize hardships during drought

Specific objectives of the drought plan are to:

  • Collect, analyze and disseminate drought related information in a timely manner
  • Establish criteria for declaring drought and triggering mitigation and response activities
  • Describe the organization structure and the responsibilities of programs with respect to drought
  • Prepare and inventory of state and federal programs and provide action recommendations
  • Identify drought prone areas and vulnerable sectors
  • Identify mitigation actions
  • Provide a mechanism to ensure a timely and accurate assessment of drought impacts


The Navajo Nation has severe water infrastructure deficiencies that impact the health, economy, and welfare of the Navajo people. The lack of adequate domestic and municipal water is the greatest water resource problem facing the Navajo Nation. Given the limited tribal resources, and the limited federal budgets and authorizations, the water resource problems will become increasingly acute, intensifying the poor socioeconomic conditions on the Navajo reservation.

The broad goals of the Water Resources Development Strategy for the Navajo Nation (Strategy Document) are to: describe current and projected water requirements, identify water resource infrastructure deficiencies, and present a strategy for addressing the deficiencies.

The Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources (NNDWR) identified a need to better define and clarify the water resource problems confronting the Navajo Nation and to develop a plan for addressing those problems. The effort resulted in this Strategy Document. This document was first produced in July 2000. It has been updated with data available in recent Census, more recent information from the Division of Economic Development, and separate investigations of the Navajo water projects.


The broad goals of this Strategy are to:

  • describe the current and projected water requirements, identify infrastructure deficiencies
  • present a Strategy and a Plan of Action for addressing the deficiencies.

The specific objectives are to:

  • Provide an overview of water supply and management on the reservation, including descriptions of the Tribal entities that play key roles
  • Describe water use and demand on the Navajo Nation
  • Based on current and future water demands, identify water infrastructure deficiencies
  • Propose a long-term water resource development strategy for the Navajo


The Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources has developed a strategy to foster domestic development of water resources. The strategy includes developing regional water projects, improving small public water systems, rehabilitating small irrigation projects, drought mitigation and response. Another important project is improving service to water haulers.

In terms of regional water supply projects, the nation’s long-term goals include several large regional water supply projects:

  1. Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project (will convey 37,000 acre-feet of water from Cutter Reservoir and the San Juan River and to 40 Navajo chapters in New Mexico and Arizona, the City of Gallup, and the southern part of the Jicarilla Apache Nation)
  2. Western Navajo Pipeline, (Lake Powell to the Cameron Chapter)
  3. Ganado Regional Project
  4. Southwest Navajo Regional Project
  5. Utah Project
  6. Farmington to Shiprock Pipeline (part of the ALP project)


Organizational Chart



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