The United States pursues a policy of settling Indian water rights disputes whenever possible, which is preferable to protracted litigation over Indian water rights claims, pursuant to “Criteria and Procedures for the Participation of the Federal Government in Negotiations for the Settlement of Indian Water Rights Claims” (Federal Register, Vol. 55, No. 48, March 12, 1990).

The intent of Indian water rights settlements is to aid in securing Tribal and individual Indian rights to historic Tribal land and ensuring permanent access to clean, reliable water supplies. To support these goals, DOI negotiates and supports implementation of Indian water rights settlements. Settlements often end decades of controversy and contention among Tribes and neighboring communities.

Many of the projects supported in settlement agreements bring clean and potable water to Tribal communities, while other projects repair crumbling irrigation and water delivery infrastructure on which Tribal economies depend.

Indian water rights settlements are administered through the collaborative effort of many offices and bureaus within the Department of the Interior (DOI), including the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office (SWIRO), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), and other federal agencies. DOI currently has several federal Indian water rights negotiation and implementation settlement teams working to pursue all options to resolve water rights claims.

Current Indian Water Rights Settlements

Currently enacted legislation authorizing Indian water rights settlements are collected in the document below, as of May 2023:

For ongoing Indian water rights settlement negotiations and settlement implementation, contact the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office.

Additional Information

Additional Resources

Contact Us

Branch of Water Resources
13922 Denver West Pkwy., Bldg. 54, Ste. 300
Lakewood, CO 80401
8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday.