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Cultural Water Demand in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area - Tribal Demand

Cultural water demand includes: Tribal, Municipal, Agricultural and Industrial.  Cultural water demand in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area averaged approximately 170,400 acre-feet annually during the period from 2001 to 2005. 

Water demand by each sector and water source is shown in Figure 2.0-18. The industrial demand sector is the largest user with 83,100 AFA of water demand, 49% of the total.  About two-thirds of the industrial demand is met by groundwater.  The municipal sector accounts for about 26% of the cultural demand with almost 45,000 AFA. Most of the municipal demand is met with groundwater. Agricultural demand is approximately 42,400 AFA, 25% of the total. The agricultural sector utilizes comparable volumes of groundwater, surface water and effluent. Most of the agricultural effluent use is at one location and source, the Catalyst Paper Mill northeast of Heber. Surface water is the largest component of agricultural supply, meeting about 42% of the agricultural demand. Tribal water demand is included in these totals.

Figure 2.0-18  Cultural Water Demand by Sector in the Eastern Plateau Planning Area in acre-feet (2001-2005 on average)

Cultural Demand by Sector

Tribal Water Demand

Tribal water demand is about a tenth of the overall cultural water demand in the planning area (not including the pumpage by Peabody Western Coal Company at Black Mesa). The Navajo Reservation is the largest and most populated with an estimated annual demand of 11,700 acre-feet and an Arizona population of about 105,000 in 2000.  Demand on the Hopi Reservation is approximately 1,000 AFA.  With a 2004 on-reservation population of about 8,000, Hopi people have continually occupied the area since 500 A.D. The community of Old Oraibi, established as early as 1100, is considered the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States (ADOC, 2008).

Navajo Nation

Major municipal demand centers on the Navajo Nation include Chinle, Kayenta, Tuba City and Window Rock/Fort Defiance.  Specific amounts used in each community are not known.  According to a 2002 Navajo Department of Water Resources (NDWR) report, approximately 40% of the population routinely hauls water for domestic and stock uses.  According to the report, the Navajo Nation has the highest percentage of its population lacking potable water systems compared to any other region in the United States.  Most municipal water supplies are groundwater (NDWR, USBOR & USIHS, 2002)

Windmill Navajo Nation

Windmill on the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation

has the highest percentage of its population

lacking potable water systems compared

to any other region in the United States

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is the largest public water provider for the Nation, which extends into New Mexico and Utah.  The NTUA operates more than 90 public water systems with approximately 24,000 connections throughout the entire reservation, supplying more than 12,000 acre-feet of residential and 3,300 acre-feet of commercial water per year.  It is estimated that smaller operators (NDWR and BIA) serve about 10,000 people and convey about 1,500 acre-feet of water annually.  The USGS estimates that approximately 10,500 acre-feet of water was used for municipal purposes in the Arizona portion of the Navajo Reservation in 2006 (USGS, 2008). About 500 acre-feet of wastewater is used for dust abatement and construction.  Other major uses are associated with coal mining on Black Mesa and electrical generation (NDWR, USBOR & USIHS, 2002).

Navajo reservation irrigation consists of Ak Chin (dryland farming) and small irrigation projects. Between 1910 and the late 1950’s the U.S. Government built and expanded dozens of small irrigation projects amounting to about 46,200 acres reservation-wide. Because of inadequate management and funding for operation and maintenance, these small systems have deteriorated and by 1986, a Soil Conservation Service survey found only 16,670 acres still were farmed, a decrease of 64% (NDWR, 2002b).

A field examination by Department staff and Navajo Nation representatives in the Upper Colorado River Basin portion of the planning area found approximately 400 acres of active surface water irrigation in 2005. The total water requirement for the crops grown on these acres was estimated at approximately 600 acre-feet (USBOR, 2007). The report did not include an irrigation efficiency estimate. The survey also found another 500 acres in the Upper Basin that were dryland farmed.

The extent of recent irrigation activity elsewhere on the Arizona portion of the reservation (Little Colorado River) is not well known but appears to be limited. The Hydrographic Survey Report for Indian Lands in the Little Colorado River System (ADWR, 1994b), reported approximately 3,000 irrigated acres in that portion of the reservation. An analysis of recent aerial images show approximately 200 acres irrigated in this area, resulting in total reservation acreage of roughly 600 acres, or 1,200 AFA on the Navajo Reservation (ADWR, 2008b).

An additional 4,400 acre-feet of groundwater was withdrawn annually from tribal lands for the Black Mesa and Kayenta coal mines and slurry pipeline. With closure of the Mohave Generating Station at Laughlin, Nevada in 2005, the slurry pipeline that delivered coal from the Black Mesa mine is not operating. As a result withdrawals dropped to 1,500 acre-feet in 2006.

Hopi Tribe

Major municipal demand centers on the Hopi Reservation include Polacca, Kykotsmovi, Shungopavi, Hotevilla and Moenkopi. The N-aquifer is the only aquifer of sufficient quality and accessibility to supply reliable drinking water to the Hopi villages on the three mesas (Hopi Tribe, 2005). The village of Moenkopi uses approximately 160 acre-feet of water from N-aquifer springs.

The Department completed the Preliminary Hydrographic Survey Report for the Hopi Indian Reservation (Hopi HSR) in December 2008, which contains detailed water demand information. The report found that public water systems delivered 445 acre-feet of groundwater in 2006 (ADWR, 2008a). The USGS estimates that an additional 100 acre-feet of groundwater is annually used for domestic purposes (USGS, 2008).

Dry Land Farming on Hopi Land

Corn field dry land farming on Hopi reservation.

Agriculture on the Hopi Reservation consists primarily of traditional farming activities on small plots of land. The predominant crop grown is corn, with smaller percentages of orchards, beans, melons and squash. The Hopi HSR identified approximately 5,000 traditionally irrigated acres scattered throughout the reservation. These areas are irrigated through a combination of dryland farming, rainwater harvesting or surface water diversions during rainfall events. The survey also found approximately 180 acres of non-traditionally irrigated lands at Pasture Canyon near Moenkopi, 155 acres of which were irrigated in 2005. These acres are irrigated using non-traditional (“modern”) irrigation methods at an estimated rate of 2.0 acre-feet per acre or about 310 AFA (ADWR, 2008a).

Zuni Heaven Reservation

The Zuni Heaven Reservation was established by Congress in 1984 through Public Law 98-498 and expanded in 1990 through Public Law 101-486 to further the religious and cultural needs of the Zuni Tribe. Zuni Heaven is a religious pilgrimage site from the main reservation in New Mexico and was a lush riparian habitat with springs, streams and a sacred lake (Hadin Kyaya) as late as the 1930s.  Surface water depletions, dams, groundwater pumping and incisement of the Little Colorado River through the Zuni lands resulted in loss of the springs, lake and riparian habitat. The Zuni Indian Tribe Water Rights Settlement Agreement of 2002 provides sufficient water for the reservation including reestablishment and maintenance of the wetland environment. A minimum wetland restoration volume of 5,500 AFA from various sources was identified, including unappropriated surface water flows reaching the reservation, water from Zuni Lands upstream of the reservation, acquired surface water rights and underground water.  The agreement allows pumping of up to 1,500 AFA from the Zuni Pumping Lands for restoration of the wetlands and to provide water to the sacred lake. In 2008, the Tribe withdrew approximately 157 acre-feet of water from wells on the Zuni Pumping Lands.


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