The Water Rights Negotiations/Litigation program is intended to provide technical consultation, and administrative cost support for Tribes engaged in the protection of Indian Water Rights. The BIA staff coordinates with the United States Department of Justice, the Department of Interior, Office of the Solicitor, and the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office on actions taken in pursuit of litigation/ settlement resolution. 

This program provides the major financial support for the United States to assert and defend Indian water rights claims. The funds are used by the United States and Tribes for activities associated with establishing and protecting Indian water rights through negotiations and/or litigation. Program funding is critical for supporting and advancing on-going Indian water rights litigation cases as well as Federal and Tribal negotiations being conducted to secure Indian water rights in lieu of litigation.

Tribes engaged in water rights negotiation or litigation may submit a funding request for eligible costs associated with preparing documentation for negotiation or litigation.

What Costs Are Covered by the Water Rights Negotiation/Litigation Program? 

Water Rights Negotiation/Litigation funding requests may include technical consultations and administrative costs related to providing documentation for your water rights negotiation and/or litigation case. These materials may include, but are not limited to:

  • Preparing hydrographic survey reports;
  • Determining surface and ground water supplies;
  • Identifying arable lands;
  • Completing a practicably irrigable acreage (PIA) assessment;
  • Determining point(s) and means of diversion, purpose(s) and place(s) of use, and amount of water diverted or depleted; and
  • Conducting studies to determine the water needs of fish, wildlife, or other resources for which Indian Tribes have reserved rights.

Funding requests may not include attorney’s fees or Hydropower projects. Applications for financial assistance for attorney fees are through the BIA’s Attorney Fees and Litigation Support Services, whereas applications for financial assistance for hydropower project compliance are through the BIA's Hydropower Compliance Program.

More information about Water Rights Negotiation/Litigation Program eligibility and instructions can be found in the Federal Register “Notice of Revised Instructions for Preparing and Prioritizing Water Program Funding Requests” (Vol. 70, No. 201, October 19, 2005).

How to Submit a Funding Request

Water Rights Negotiation/Litigation funding requests may be submitted each year by Tribes engaged in water rights negotiations or litigation.

Funding requests should be no longer than three pages. Tribes must submit completed funding requests to their BIA Regional Office to be considered for funding the following year. Funding is awarded based on published criteria in the Federal Register “Notice of Revised Instructions for Preparing and Prioritizing Water Program Funding Requests” (Vol. 70, No. 201, October 19, 2005).

Letters soliciting funding requests are sent to Tribes each year and contain the following documents: 


Additional Information

Additional Resources

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